Is this the worst team ever to leave Australian shores in the quest for the Ashes? Perhaps it is but many teams have been called that over the years and the tag is overused. So I will stay away from it. However, this must surely we the most bizarre lead up to an Ashes series.
In recent years, the character of Ashes tours have changed. This is well documented and indeed, I have observed this myself in the past. Gone are the days of playing six days a week for five months. In recent years, the preparation has seen more and more limited overs cricket and less and less first class cricket. But this tour has been more fragmented than Humpty Dumpty.
The Ashes squad assembled in England for a few snap shots in early June. Then some of the players went to play County cricket, some went off to play for Australia A and some (the minority), played for Australia in their doomed ICC Champions Trophy campaign.
Added to these logistical intrigues are two shambolic affairs. First, we had the David Warner featherweight championship bar room bout but enough on that. And today, the coach was sacked. I have not found out the official reason but Arthur had two years left on his contract. Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad to see the back of Mickey Arthur. I didn’t like his methods, I thought the Homework Fiasco was a disgrace all of his making and I don’t think he understands the way Australians think. I have said it before but I will say it again (because I am right), he’s unAustralian. And every time I heard him interviewed, he sounded like a pompous corporate spin doctor addressing the press. “The players as a bowling group now understand what is expected of them as international cricketers.” (i.e. hand their homework in on time)
Perhaps it was in fact related to the Warner incident. Perhaps, CA is trying to take advantage of “New Coach Transitional Effect”. I see this in Rugby League a lot. After a side has lost for three months straight and the coach has been given the full support of the board, the coach is unceremoniously dumped. The team then proceeds to win its next match. That is known as New Coach Transitional Effect and CA have realised that it is Australia’s only chance of a win this series. Whatever the case, without yet knowing the reasoning, it does seem a strange move on the eve of the Ashes. It is yet more candy for the British tabloids.
For more laughs, look at the Pakistani leg spinner Fawad Ahmed. His Australian citizenship was rushed through and no sooner than he had become an Aussie, he left these sunny shores to join Australia A. Mickey, in an interview with Jim Maxwell, confirmed that he thought it likely that Fawad would be added to the Ashes squad. Fawad was then belted by Gloucester, who narrowly failed to beat Australia A, having trailed by more than 200 on the first innings. I don’t know but Fawad and Arthur may well be on the same flight out of Heathrow.
At least Steve Smith has been added to the squad. This is officially as cover for Michael Clarke and he will be there until at least the second Test. But surely Australia should be planning to use Smith as the “7 minute Super Sub”! Perhaps that was it: CA wanted Smith added to the squad to perform the Super Sub role but Arthur protested. It was not the sort or behaviour expected from the coaching group of an international sporting team. Therefore, the best solution was to get a coach that would. Enter Boof Lehmann – the knight on his trusty steed.
That is correct Darren Lehmann will be the new coach. He has just finished a successful stint as the mentor of Australia A and has been highly praised with the Queensland Bulls. I doubt he will set any homework. Lehmann is a players’ man, a former Australian cricketer, was ranked 25th on Warnie’s 50 greatest cricketers of all time and is very… Australian. Whether he can put Humpty back together again in 2013 is yet to be seen but I think he might have just jumped on a losing horse.