Cricket Australia (CA) has implemented drastic changes in the structure of the Australian cricket team just weeks before the Ashes series is set to begin, with CA’s Chief Executive James Sutherland backing management to do ‘what it takes’ to field the best team possible. So far, this has included the dismissal of coach Mickey Arthur, Michael Clarke standing down as a selector, and the dropping of the player rotation policy. As was reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, these last-minute changes are CA’s reaction to poor on- and off-field performances that have been a significant concern for team management and CA’s Board for some months. These drastic actions follow what was described in some Australian media as a “disastrous tour” of India in March, where apart from poor on-field performances, four senior players were stood down from the Third Test for not ‘doing their homework’. The players were suspended by Mickey Arthur for failing to deliver a presentation by email or in person, on what they bring to the team.
With ongoing rumours of problems with poor team culture and a lack of unity amongst the Australian side, the final incident for CA came in June with batsman Dave Warner being stood down for an off-field alcohol-related altercation with English batsman Joe Root during the Champions trophy in England.
Last week they stepped in and announced sweeping changes including the sacking of Mickey Arthur and his replacement, ex-national player and current coach of the Australia A tour of the British Isles, Darren Lehmann.
Lehmann in an interview last year expressed his views on the controversial policy of player rotation, telling the Sydney Morning Herald that he believed Australia’s best players should be selected for “each and every game” even if it meant someone was playing all the time; despite the possibility of player burnout or injury. One day after Lehmann’s arrival on the team, Sutherland declared that this rotation policy, which has been in practice for over a decade, is not going to be in place for the Ashes series.
While CA has been heavily criticised for the outcomes of the player rotation policy in recent years, which included resting both Captain Michael Clarke and David Warner in the beginning of the One Day International series, CA’s recent broadcast rights signing of Channel Nine has sparked debate over the extent of influence the network has had on the abandonment of the policy.
CA has denied that the $590 million TV deal with Channel Nine has had any effect on player selection in the Ashes series, however Sutherland’s recent endorsement of drastic action contrasts with his usual ‘soft stance’ on taking risks. As the Daily Telegraph reports, Sutherland was accused of being ‘all talk’ and minimal action when it came to the light penalty- a fine and a temporary suspension- handed to Warner over the England altercation; with many critics claiming the conduct warranted his sending home.
While Sutherland expressed anger at Warner’s behaviour and that six players were out drinking until the early hours of the morning following their loss to England, the seemingly minor penalties appeared to show a lack of strong action and leadership.
Hopefully the series of changes that have flowed from a new-found focus on responsibility and accountability will prove to be worth the risks of such drastic actions so close to this crucial Ashes tour. None of us could stand the POMs gloating for another four years!