The Australian team management on Monday sacked four key players from the team for the next Test match at Mohali. For Indian cricket lovers, it is not the fact of the sackings but the reasons cited and the manner in which the team management took responsibility for the decision that must hold the most interest.
The four players -- Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja -- were axed from the squad because they did not comply with an invitation by coach Mickey Arthur to all players to come up with individual presentations on how to arrest the current slide in fortunes of the team.
The summary sackings and the manner in which the team’s brains trust came forward to take responsibility for them stand in strong contrast with how India has dealt with similar situations in the past. Whether it was the fallout of the differences between former coach Greg Chappell and captain Sourav Ganguly, or the retirement of Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman, or the intrigue between Virender Sehwag and captain M S Dhoni, the approach has been to indulge in strategic leaks, orchestrate insinuations and hammer out patchy compromises. While success in the present series has served to paper over the cracks in the Indian team, it remains a fact that India continues to need the good offices of pitch doctors and home conditions to do well and it has not yet laid out a road map for the future when the last of the titans, Sachin Tendulkar finally calls it a day.The Australian sackings on Monday, and Mickey Arthur’s justification of it, hold several insights to India.
1. Brave the odds
Three of the sacked players were crucial to Australia if they were to do better in the rest of the Test matchs in India. Pattinson has been their only in-form bowler, Watson is the vice-captain and a crucial all-rounder and Mitchell Johnson could have proved very handy on the Mohali wicket. Yet, M/s Arthur and Clarke decided that a tempory revival must be sacrificed for the long-term goal of rebuilding a great team. By sacking the four, Australia has taken on a very great burden: it must now pick the squad for Mohali from among just 13 players, most of them out of form.
2. Take responsibility
The sackings were announced by Arthur, and he said it was his decision to seek players’ presentations and his decision to axe them because they didn’t think it was important enough as a team exercise. And he said captain Clarke was party to the thinking behind the decision and stood behind it. “”I’ve used the last three days off to reflect on how well I’ve been going in my job. “Myself and Pup (Clarke) came to the conclusion that we have been so focused on winning cricket games that maybe some people have been cutting corners. Perhaps there have been some soft options taken. We decided that we needed to really get that in line.”
3. Team culture is paramount
Arthur’s announcement revealed that as much importance is given to cricket technicalities as to what he called team culture. “Teams that are the best in the world have the best attitudes and best behaviour patterns and a good, hard, ruthless culture. I believe those four players unfortunately did not meet my requirements,” said Arthur. “We believe that those behaviours are necessary for what we want to do with this team, how we want to take this team to be the best in the world.
4. Draw the line
As Arthur said it, players were given “absolute clarity” as to where the lines lay, and the sackings prove that the lines are meant to be serious limits. “This was a line-in-the-sand moment. We have given these guys absolute clarity.” Arthur said, adding that to be world-beaters again, the Aussies will have to fall in line when it comes to discipline.