Our three-point plan for improving Australia’s Test performances in India

If Shane, Mitch, James and Usman won’t bother, we will.

1. Bat Michael Clarke down the order

We suggest at number six or even at number seven. As well as protecting the captain from India’s dangerous new ball bowlers, this will also help conserve his strength. He needs all the energy he can get for important and time-consuming bureaucracy.

2. Continue picking Phil Hughes

This will definitely improve the side eventually. Being as Hughes is currently scoring no runs whatsoever, all it will take is a thick edge to third man for Australia to be better off.

3. Pick Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell and Moises Henriques in the same side

Selectors are always concerned about the balance of the side. What better way to balance it than to have a huge dead weight smack bang in the middle? Please, please, please let this happen.

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50 Appeals

  1. Spiderman hasn’t turned up yet, but it’s only a matter of time. There is absolutely no way this is real; life doesn’t work that way.

  2. Your use of hyperlinks is truly getting out of control. I mean, regardless of what you think our fitness levels are, we are capable* of shifting the eyeball a few inches downward.

    *From a seated position only.

  3. I hope they pick Smith, Maxwell, Doherty and Lyon.

    Okay, doubling the amount of slow bowlers didn’t work last time, but maybe the problem was they didn’t pick enough of them. It is India, after all.

  4. The third point is a real possibility – depends how good Lyon’s homework was.

  5. I’m trying to think of an English equivalent of the Smith, Maxwell and Henriques trio. Hollioake, Ealham, Pringle? Schofield, White, McGrath?

  6. There’s more interesting reading on the subject this morning. Actually, I am moving away from being amused at Australia’s misfortunes, towards being depressed by the state of cricket, and sport, in general.

    These problems occur entirely due to weak and feeble management. All teams have different characters, different opinions, different ways of doing stuff. In well run teams this can all be accommodated and handled, even in extremis. Great teams of the past have had huge diversity of players, even cliques within the dressing room, but good leaders can focus these disparate personalities on the only thing that actually matters – winning the match, no matter how they choose to go about doing that. If that means attending focus sessions with an holistic Reiki consultant, so be it. If it means having another pint, so be that too.

    But when the management structure is weak, they can’t handle all this difference. Weak managers crave uniformity, because their brains aren’t large enough to hold two ideas at the same time. They create Systems and Procedures to try to force people down a single route. If a team is losing, the lack of uniformity becomes the scapegoat. And when this desperate drive for uniformity doesn’t work (as it inevitably doesn’t), they start with the disciplinary structures.

    It’s not that this Australian team is unique in this way – the KP debacle was exactly the same (no coincidence that it occurred while SA was beating England). Weak team managers saw non-uniformity as the reason for failure, so KP was forced into a System, then isolated and disciplined as a result. As everybody knew at the time, the captain should have just told him he was being a prat and got on with things. Maybe a quick fist fight might have helped. But they were too weak.

    A good system takes each player as an individual and aims to maximise his performance for the benefit of the team. How that is achieved ought to depend on the player – why on earth should what works for one automatically work for them all? So by all means have some players fill out a stool description form every time they go to the toilet. But others will respond better to being shouted at and told they’re rubbish, others will respond to being given a cuddle, others might respond to being allowed to get trashed in a nightclub occasionally. Let’s face it, we can all think of great players from the past who would fit into those categories and more. And then maybe these teams can stop having managers and start having leaders.

    And by the way, just in case Cricket Australia are reading this, the reason you are getting hammered in this series isn’t because the players aren’t all pulling in the same direction. You could have them all formation marching with military precision and it wouldn’t make the slightest difference. It’s because you don’t have good enough or experienced enough players in the squad. Get over it.

    • http://www.espncricinfo.com/india-v-australia-2013/content/current/story/624623.html

      Pattinson has 8 wickets at 21 in this series. His fellow bowlers have 14 wickets at 63 between them. What on earth does Pattinson have to apologise to them for? It should be the other way round.

    • King Cricket

      March 12, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      We completely agree with both of those comments.

      The ‘line in the sand’ that Mickey Arthur talked about should have described a large circle encompassing lots of different ways of doing things. Instead, it defined Mickey Arthur’s way of doing things and Mickey Arthur’s way of doing things only. This has left most of the squad being branded ‘not team players’ – which actually makes zero sense when you think about it.

      There are always extremes of behaviour which are unacceptable – when the relaxing pint becomes drinking until 6am on the morning of the game, say – but this decision means perfectly normal behaviour is being considered ‘extreme’.

    • Ritesh Banglani

      March 12, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      Very well said Bert. Any half-decent people manager knows that you don’t manage a small group of exceptionally talented people the same way as you would a large blue-collar workforce. Had the same drama happened at a creative ad agency or a research lab, the manager would get fired, not the employees.

      Ok the “exceptionally talented” part is not strictly true, but still.

  7. Am I the only one who doesn’t think this is all as bonkers as is being made out?

    Some of the quotes are obviously utter nonsense but this Australian team has been rudderless for a while now. Sacrificing an already disastrous tour and Shane Watson’s 30 runs and a wicket per innings for the (perhaps small) chance of instilling a sense of discipline and unity in the squad sounds like a fair deal to me.

    Maybe Australian cricket can start to have some honest conversations about tactics, selection and development of the team and actually formulate a plan to guide themselves out of this mess.

    • King Cricket

      March 12, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      Will suspending players for lapses in paperwork foster unity?

    • But they’ve got rid of the only bowler who is actually playing well. Whatever Pattinson was doing was working for him, and therefore by extension it was working for the team. And yet he HAS HAD TO APOLOGISE TO HIS TEAMMATES! What the hell for? Is it seriously the suggestion that the reason the rest of them have taken 14 wickets at an average of 63 is the off-field behaviour of James Pattinson? That all this crapness is Pattinson’s fault, for his unspecified lack of team spirit? Are they all so pathetic that they can’t perform unless James Pattinson is friends with them? Have they all walked away from this public humiliation of Pattinson feeling smug about the fact that they filled out the right forms, and not felling deeply ashamed at their actual level of performance?

    • KC/Bert – If Clarke’s hints are anything to go by then this isn’t a one off and the management and captain have just got tired of a generally underperforming squad deciding they can’t be arsed doing what they’re told. The reports talk about notes shoved under Arthur’s door (from players who weren’t dropped) so it’s not as if he was expecting a blubbing mea culpa as they lined up for their flogging.

    • But the group of underperforming team members includes many more and much worse than these four, and doesn’t include Pattinson. Compliance with The System is more important than performance on the field, quite clearly.

    • The Cricket Australia high-performance manager (no sniggering at the back) Pat Howard has weighed in: “There have been many little bits of not doing what the selectors have asked, the coaches have asked…It’s not just one for everbody. This was a final straw and other blokes have had warnings over time. The rest of the team listened to the final warning and fell in line.”

      At least in public, Pattinson has backed the decision.

  8. There’s an interesting parallel with this in football. I should declare bias as a Reading supporter at this point.

    Brian McDermott, who managed Reading to the top of the Championship least season and into the Premier League, was fired after a poor run of results by a relatively by owner.

    McDermott had tried to change the team culture by making the players more responsible for their own decisions. This resulted in a better culture, with players more driven to do well for a club that was treating them as grown ups. They won 15 out of 17 at the end of last season.

    Coming up a level, they were never going to do terribly well. The ethics remained the same, though the results did not. It’s the same pig headed, short term thinking that’s got McDermott the sack.

    Australia need a McDermott, and they need to realise (as Bert so correctly pointed out) that you can only go so far if the players at your disposal aren’t world beaters.

    • PS – sorry for talking about football here, it has me in something of a tizz. It’s relevant mind…

    • Discarded.

      The similarity with the evil game is that foot ball team owners and Cricket Australia are all demanding instant success. What one thing can we do that will make us brilliant immediately? Nope, that wasn’t it – fire someone and start again.

  9. Well said, Bert and String.

    All this adds to the theory that coaches aren’t actually as important as everyone thinks. Anyone who has read autobiographies by members of the great Australian team of the late 90s and early 00s will realise that their success seems to have been achieved despite the wacky John Buchanan. The players kept winning and breaking records because they were great players.

    A very good coach and captain team can turn a struggling side around – see Hussain and Fletcher then Vaughan and Fletcher – but in the end it comes down to the players. The players in this Aussie squad may well be the best in the country. If so, God help them. But no amount of questionnaires, feedback forms and lines in the sand will change the fact that you have to score more runs than the other blokes and take 20 wickets.

  10. James Pattinson is a fifth columnist because he is clearly a spy for England, that is why he has been dropped from the Aussie team.

    I have uncovered incotrovertable evidence that his older brother Darren has even played cricket for the arch-enemy England, in 2008.

    How can little James possibly appear for Australia in the Ashes in these circumstancs?

    It would be like Mr Tracey employing Kyrano knowing that he is fraternally related to the Hood.

    OK, forget that last analogy, but surely you get my point.

    Whoever was responsible for selecting Darren Pattinson out of the blue for that ill-fated test against the Saffers in 2008; stand up, stand up and take your bow. It was a piece of utterly genius long-term planning and by jingo I think it might have worked.

    • That was James Whitaker, Ged. You know, James Whitaker, the Test selector.

      Yes, the same James Whitaker that had a run in with a coach at Leicestershire – the revolutionary Aussie Bob Simpson – in another coach-player spat. When an exasperated Simpson finally gave up on the county, Whitaker (captain) said: “The problem with Bob was he wanted us all to be Test cricketers.”

      The 1990s in England: what a time for cricket.

    • King Cricket

      March 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      That’s a FANTASTIC quote. It takes real skill to sum up a decade like that.

    • James Whitaker was a Test cricketer, though.

  11. Among the usual dross in the comments on Cricinfo (one chap said that this was an opportunity for Phil Hughes to prove he could play against spin) was one little gem. What if, when asked for three ways the team could improve their performance in the next test, a player’s team-orientated and honest answer was “Change the captain, fire the coach and teach the selection committee how to do a proper job”? What bullet-pointed presentation could he submit to the captain, coach and selection committee that would demonstrate his team-centred focus? And while that is an extreme example, there are plenty of similar suggestions he might have that he felt he just couldn’t say, entirely for the sake of team togetherness. Find a competent spinner, for example, or teach Phil Hughes to bat.

    • Maybe at some point the feedback forms that were done will be leaked. That would just add an hilarious cherry to this delicious cake of awesome.

  12. A propos of nothing, Phil Hughes has excellent taste in aftershave.

  13. I’ll help you put it on, Ged!

  14. I reckon (with no more real evidence than my excited imagination) that Clarke has more to do with this that a lot of people are given him credit for. I was struck by his post match interview after the second test. “We aren’t going to get better by sitting on the couch” quoth he. After carrying them for two test, I think he saw some of his colleagues as metaphorically sitting on that couch and he wasn’t impressed. Still a debacle, but more palatable when seen a captain objecting to his underperforming team not being seen to be serious about improving.

  15. Sarah – great new site! And the picture of that lime tree in the cricket ground is simply gorgeous. Well done!

  16. Anyone else think Phil Hughes bats like a left-handed version of Ricky Ponting? The similarities are uncanny, especially in how they look like they are switch hitting every ball in India.

  17. I don’t see how the vice captain of the squad not bothering to comply with the team management’s directive is anything but grounds for dismissal.

    The directive could have been about what flavour of chewing gum is the only one allowed, and Watson breaking that would be grounds for dismissal.

    What sort of a message does the following conversation give to the rest of the squad ..
    Khawaja/Pattinson/Johnson: “Shane, you done with your three points? I’ve got one and I wanted to talk to you to see if I can get some more”
    Watson: “Naaah .. who gives a toss. That’s just coach and pup giving us a hard time .. screw that. Look at how my 8-pack moves when I do sit-ups .. I’m making a video to upload to my IPL team website.”
    K/P/J: “uhhh …

    • Can you actually be dismissed from a non-job like vice captain?

      If you stopped doing it without telling anyone, how long would it be before they noticed?

    • i meant dismissed from the team.

      The ideal punishment would have been to make them run around the ground 10 times with their cricket kits above their heads, but I don’t think any of these 4 could survive that.

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