The forging of a team is a very painstaking task indeed. Each player’s personality traits have to be accommodated into the larger plan for the team. One would think that Steve Waugh’s diaries which have been published in book form would itself be enough to sort out Cricket Australia’s dressing room problems.
Waugh moulded his players brilliantly, but coach Mickey Arthur, with his South African background, has too robust a plan already and is not willing to alter it considering the prevalent dressing room culture. Cultures have history. They can’t be changed overnight.
On being appointed the coach of Pakistan, Bob Woolmer wanted to understand the players on their own terms and then build strategy accordingly.
Fame and money
The present Australian team has been spoilt by fame and money. David Warner was brought up in a humble neighbourhood of Sydney. And this young boy, who has never seen too much money, got a chance to play Twenty20 for Australia before having to struggle to play a first class game.
That it was good fortune that got him the chance so early did not cross Warner’s mind. He thought that the Indian Premier League’s fat salary meant that he was a world beater, to an extent that he thought he could do no wrong.
These behavioural problems were apparently evident in Warner while playing in the IPL. It should have been immediately identified and rectified. But when a team coach doubles up as a manager whose duties are different from the coach’s, discipline takes a backseat.
A stark contrast can be seen in the old timers’ stories about the love for cricket when there was so little money. Apart from those from south, most cricketers in India were uneducated and they had to play well to get social security. Not anymore. Ravindra Jadeja has proved it. He is a school dropout but earns millions.
The IPL has changed cricket. It has changed the approach and the attitude of players. The greed has pushed ethos and values to the bottom of the priority list.
The present generation tends to be reckless at times and it has to be tackled by cricket associations through men of stature being mentors so that no player will dare do things that will embarrass the team.
Code of Conduct
There also has to be consistency in interpreting the Code of Conduct. A few years ago Andrew Symonds was sent home for misbehaviour but Warner wasn’t.
In 1959 when playing against North Zone, West Indian fast bowler Roy Gilchrist didn’t follow the instructions of skipper Gerry Alexander.
The disciplinarian Alexander sent Gilchrist home the same night. What action did Michael Clarke and Arthur take in the case of Warner? The decision-makers in the team can’t afford to have agendas.
In a team game, a few rotten eggs can spoil the team culture whatever potential players they may be. Such teams need mentors. Why Cricket Australia is steadfastly opposing the idea of inviting either Steve Waugh or Ricky Ponting to be with the team is puzzling.
Cricket culture cannot be formed in a day. Nor can it be thawed in a day. Australia’s legacy of cricket dates far back. But CA’s actions today are tarnishing Australia’s cricket legacy.