Australian cricket is in a terrible mess. When Pat Howard with a Rugby Union background was appointed as High Performance Manager of Cricket Australia, not many were convinced. Add to it when coach Micky Arthur who had a history of disagreements with a captain of the South Africa team, Cricket Australia should have been careful about his appointment.
Micky Arthur didn’t get along with Graeme Smith and had to quit the job in 2010. He was faulted for having too many likes and dislikes.
His presentations of methodology of team handling might have impressed Pat Howard who strongly recommended his appointment, but he seemed to have overlooked the fact that when you tinker with the cricket culture of a country, you have to be prepared for a rebellion. That’s what has happened.
Theories are theories, they make sense when the ethos of the game are kept intact. As Ian Chappell has been saying, out there in the middle, it is the captain who is in charge. The captain needs the support of his coach and support staff to get the players mentally fit to perform.
With Cricket Australia going for a complete makeover of its management theories, Arthur was given powers which made him believe that as long as the team wins, anything he does is welcome.
The miserable part of this generosity is when your team loses badly.
Unlike many other international coaches Arthur isn’t an international.
That handling teams with high profile players is a job in itself has been experienced by quite a few like Greg Chappell. Duncan Fletcher, Gary Kirsten and John Wright are the few who have mastered the art of handling moods of players well enough.
There are two ways we can look at the Australian crisis. First, as Michael Clarke said it just wasn’t one incident.
He said the players had been constantly indulging in indiscipline while putting up a pathetic show on the field. However, Clarke needs to answer whether any effort was made by the team management to have one-on-one with such players.
The second issue is about the players not complying with the presentations without assigning any reasons. The rudimentary question is do the boys respect Micky Arthur enough, or is Arthur demanding respect?
The players have always had problems with coaches who haven’t been internationals.
Even a ring master can’t enter the cage before earning respect of the ferocious beasts. It is little difficult for Arthur’s maxim ‘you do as I tell you’ to earn respect.
Gary Kirsten did the ‘hey, let me know how you want to deal with the situation and I am there for you’ and got the Indian team together. Before hastily blaming players, we should get one thing clear; no player has the intention of going out there and failing especially in international matches.
Whichever way you approach the problem, it is the failure of the management that is guilty of not making the players feel wanted enough.
One can’t employ corporate management theories to sports because the mind-set of a sportsman is totally different. What can be sorted out in one-on-one meeting doesn’t need public humiliation, one that will crush the hard-earned reputation of an international cricketer.
There is a lesson in how the Kevin Pietersen issue was sorted out. When England captain Alastair Cook realised he needed him to win the series in India, he made ECB change its approach.
Australia has been too used to winning. A crisis like this is certainly not something it foresaw. The ideal solution would be to have either Steve Waugh or Adam Gilchrist as mentor rather than a dictator.