Just as the Australia tour party were starting to bear a passing resemblance to the teams of old, tenacious on the field, relaxed and enjoying themselves off it, there comes another body blow before the Lord’s Test.
The previous “calamities” in the build-up to this series regarding homework, the Walkabout pub and the sword ending up in Arthur’s back did not appear to affect Australia adversely at Nottingham. In fact they seemed galvanised by all these sagas. But how much more can they take?
There was plenty of sympathy expressed for Arthur from Australian lips after his sacking but that will be draining away fast, given the timing of the publication of his revelations. Arthur has expressed regret that so much sensitive material has come to light at such an inconvenient moment, 48 hours before Australia embark on a crucial Test match. But there is no indication in Arthur’s statement that he denies the content of the leaks.
Doing his best
Likewise Michael Clarke, left with an unplayable lie, has done his best to shrug off the reports of dissension in the camp. “I can’t remember for a long time the team being as united as we are right now,” he said before singing the praises of his coach - the current one, Darren Lehmann. Even that observation from Clarke, designed to deflate yet another mini-crisis, hints that all was not peace and light before Lehmann agreed to take up the reins.
Several of Arthur’s claims will not endear him to many Australians. He is the first man from overseas to coach Australia - though he is not the first non-Test cricketer to do so - and this was always going to increase the pressure on him once the team were performing poorly. Yet the apparent claims of racial discrimination from a white South African are somehow jarring. Aussies are none too enamoured with losers wherever they come from.
It is also reported that Arthur felt that he was not supported by his governing body over the homework affair in India when he suspended four of his players for a Test. Well, even if that was the case, there is a good reason why his governing body would have been very uneasy. To suspend those four players was a very stupid plan of action, which, at a stroke, betrayed the fact that the coach’s authority was waning.
Nor does it help Australia’s cause greatly to hear more of the rift between captain Clarke and Shane Watson. Restored as an opening batsman for this series, Watson is a sensitive soul and is likely to be miffed that Clarke apparently referred to him as a “cancer” in Australia’s cricket team.
This adds a certain piquancy to Australia’s slip cordon since Watson usually stands at first slip, Clarke at second. They may well stare at each other darkly when they line up at Lord’s - actually they have done that already when Stuart Broad edged the ball between them on the fourth morning at Trent Bridge and neither man moved a muscle.
So there is more difficult work to be done before the Lord’s Test by the straight-talking management team of Lehmann and Rodney Marsh.
However, there are many precedents for cricketers functioning well within a team even if they do not get on well. In the great Australia side of recent vintage Shane Warne was hardly bosom pals with Adam Gilchrist or Steve Waugh. In the great old Australia sides Bill O’Reilly and Keith Miller did not always see eye-to-eye with Don Bradman.