Deposed Australian cricket coach Mickey Arthur has been the subject of much debate ever since he was boned mere weeks before the start of this Ashes series. And the recent fallout and accusations of rifts in the dressing room has done little to boost his popularity among the Australian public.
You can’t argue that things went from bad to worse under the tutelage of the South African, leaving Australia in the midst of their worst run of defeats for nearly 30 years. But for Arthur to be held solely responsible for Australian cricket’s current woes is to say that the Costa Concordia ran aground because the crew were ill-disciplined. What about the fucking captain?
Michael Clarke seems to thrive on a secular-style segregation of his own team mates, breaking the squad into two rival parties: those who love him and those who don’t. Clarke has now been the instigator of three separate fractures within the Australian playing group in his career. Three!
It all started with an altercation, ending in a choke, between he and Simon Katich, which then created a major rift between himself and Michael Hussey. And now it’s Shane Watson’s turn to feel the cold shoulder of the Australian captain. Surely good leaders, nay, good men, aren’t consistently disliked by several different team ‘mates‘ over the course of a career?
In stark contrast, Mickey Arthur’s character has been defended by countless parties; indeed, he appears to have been well liked by all and sundry. Does anyone see this as coincidence? One could draw a conclusion that Arthur’s nice guy attitude was usurped by the captain’s ego. It’s like bloody high school.
Arthur’s sacking has been a necessary evil to give Australia any chance of winning one of the next two Ashes series. Changes needed to be made as much to the playing squad’s attitude as to the back room staff’s competency. Clarke could not continue his dictatorship-style conveyance and an introduction of a unity focused figurehead was the glue missing from the Australian side. Lehman’s successful resume‘ – and perhaps his passport – were a bonus.
He’s unlike any other Australian cricket captain this country has ever seen, is Clarke, and for the first time in a long time, he is the sole genuine candidate to lead the side into battle. There are no others. As well as being the only world class player in the team, he stands alone as the only captain in recent memory to have an ego that can only be rivaled by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, Mark Taylor, Allan Border – they all share remarkably similar characteristics and personality traits. Clarke is very much a professional athlete from the 21st century. The model wife, the flashy red sports car, the jewelry and the visible tattoos on his arm are there for all to see.
As remarkably unlikely that these superficial things are the cause for any jealousy or comparable misgivings, Clarke’s elitist attitude toward his fellow players and the power of selection rights that Cricket Australia afforded him, made Clarke a man to be feared and a man whose side of the dressing room you’d want to be sitting on. David Warner certainly knew who was picking the team when he left an angry and abusive voicemail on Michael Hussey’s phone after his final test match. Saying that, Warner is capable of getting it wrong on his own without any sort of guidance.
Clarke may well be the first national captain of any code in this country to lack the entire support of the viewing public. As great a player as he is and will be remembered as, Australia would be in a far superior position if they had just one other player of Clarke’s calibre to lead the side. Dean Jones and Shane Warne share Clarke’s off field flair, yet Australia has flourished under the leadership of more sedate and stable men before him.
There’s no such thing as perfect harmony in any professional sports team, but the best thing Cricket Australia can do now is pay Mickey Arthur his $4 million, of which he is probably entitled to every dollar, and for Australian cricket to move on and try to work toward another winning era.
Let’s just hope Michael Clarke doesn’t do a Schettino and run aground a fully functioning ship, killing 32, injuring 64, only to be defended by a woman he was having an extramarital affair with and was witnessed hooking up with while the boat began to rock.
By Ian Higgins