Michael Clarke: Captain of a sinking Australian ship
There was a time when every move made by Cricket Australia seemed perfect. Any player who was brought into the team as a replacement, on account of his performance, made the job even tougher for the selectors. We all wanted our cricket boards to learn from theirs as Australian cricket was at its peak. But of late, the Australian team management has been severely criticised for their actions which have brought the team under the scanner.
A lot has been happening in the Australian team lately, and even though they weren’t routed in the first Ashes Test, more than England, I reckon Australia were lucky to have taken the match that far – losing it by just 14 runs. Apart from Siddle, Agar, Rogers and to an extent Hughes, none of the Aussie players had enough fire in their belly to live up to the pressure and the hype of an Ashes Test.
The drama began during India-Australia series when the then coach Mickey Arthur sacked four veteran players for the second Test after they failed to produce three key points about what led to their downfall in the first game. This was later termed as the ‘homework-gate’ incident. While Cricket Australia has been known to follow discipline, this move by Arthur was heavily criticized.
Media reports said the relation between Arthur and the other players became sour after that incident and it dampened their motivation towards the game. Just ahead of the Ashes series, another incident took place where explosive left-hander David Warner was suspended for punching England batsman Joe Root in a Birmingham bar during the Champions Trophy. It further dented the team’s image and was a big blow just ahead of the all-important Ashes series.
As if all this wasn’t enough Australian cricket board finally decided to sack Arthur 16 days ahead of the much-awaited series and appoint Darren Lehmann, who many believe carries a wise head on his shoulders, as the new coach.
All this could have probably hampered the form the Michael Clarke, the only player in the history of Test cricket to have slammed four double-centuries in one year (2012). He started the Test series against India on a confident note but then Ravindra Jadeja was the man who troubled him a lot, and Pup hasn’t managed to do much with the bat since then.
On the other hand, Shane Watson has had disciplinary issues in the past and his resurrection was seen in IPL 2013 when he resumed his bowling which was followed by several match-winning performances for Rajasthan Royals. But the kind of body language he displayed at Edgbaston wasn’t something we would expect from one of the greatest all-rounders of all time in such a crucial series. Even after Arthur’s sacking, something seems to be still bothering the swashbuckling right-hander.
So all of a sudden, the team that once was an inspiration for players and fans all across the world finds itself amidst plenty of controversies. They have a new coach, a worried skipper, a 19-year-old spinner and a plenty of non-performers.
Arthur has only rubbed salt into the wounds of the Aussies by making shocking revelations where he said Clarke called Watson a ‘cancer’ in the team.
Australia might be able to put some more fight in the next four Tests. But one thing is for sure, it isn’t a happy Australian dressing room out there. And while Lehmann would try his best to galvanize his boys, Australia’s ship is sinking. They are falling short of the likes of Clarke and Watson.