Australia backlash turns against banned cricket players
By John Pye ,APBRISBANE, Australia -- Australian cricket folklore is stocked with tales of “loveable larrikins” who've made winning look easy, or unleashed the kind of dry one-liners on opponents that withstand the tests of time.
March 14, 2013, 12:00 am TWN
Here's a tip for young players, though: don't try it on the coach or captain, particularly when you're losing.
The fallout from the suspension of four players, including vice captain Shane Watson, for one test match for failing to submit a self-critique to coach Mickey Arthur by deadline has crossed into a third day in Australia.
The announcement was initially derided and ridiculed by ex-players, including some Australian greats, for being too severe for what amounted to players failing to do their homework.
But the sentiment started turning against the players by Wednesday, with the Courier-Mail newspaper in Watson's home state of Queensland blaring the headline “Fat, Late and Lazy” across its back page. All the while, Arthur has kept up his defense of the bans.
Watson quit the tour and returned to Sydney on Tuesday to spend time with his pregnant wife before the birth of their first child, saying he needed to think about his future. He was still saying the punishment didn't fit the crime when he landed at Sydney International.
But with back-to-back Ashes series in England and Australia starting in August, there's no time for a fractured team.
Arthur wrote in a blog for Cricket Australia on Wednesday that “back chat” and “giving attitude” had reached unacceptable levels within the squad, and the failure by Watson, fast bowlers James Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson and backup batsman Usman Khawaja to submit their appraisals was the last straw.
“Being late for a meeting, high skinfolds, wearing the wrong attire, back-chat or giving attitude are just some examples of these behavioral issues that have been addressed discretely but continue to happen,” Arthur wrote. “If we're deadly serious about getting back to No. 1 in the world, all players need to raise the bar and lift their game.
“If not, we must be content at being No. 3, or 4 or 5, in world cricket because we won't get any better. The players won't learn and we'll continue a vicious cycle.”
Arthur didn't name names or point out habitual rule breakers, but said he needed to send a clear message to the whole squad by punishing the four players.
He said it was “the defining moment,” adding: “But it has been a culmination of lots of small minor indiscretions that have built up to now.”
Captain Michael Clarke said it was no coincidence that the poor discipline and form slump were simultaneous.
Arthur, a former South Africa coach who was the first foreigner appointed to the helm of the Australian team, was shocked by the fallout since Australia slipped 2-0 down in a four-test series in India after two heavy defeats.
Allan Border, an iconic figure in Australian cricket, could barely fathom the punishment for the four players, saying it was “way over the top.” Shane Warne said the sanction was ridiculous and Mark Waugh said, “I've never heard of anything so stupid in all my life. It's not under-6's -- this is test cricket.”