Move on, Mickey.
Every time Mickey Arthur opens his mouth to make a statement these days he comes away with less credibility. His latest comment that Australia went into the Ashes series in England with the belief that they could not win and therefore used the series as a fact-finding mission, defies belief. According to Arthur both he and Michael Clarke accepted that the team wasn’t strong enough to win the Ashes and the best they could do was to make England work hard in retaining the coveted trophy.
One of the pillars of Australian sport has always been their belief in themselves, individually and collectively. I played in some strong teams for Australia and also some weaker teams after the retirement of key players but never once did any Australian team I was part of go on to the field without the primary objective of winning. Whether Australian teams are good, bad or indifferent, they always believe they can win, and they play accordingly.
If what Arthur says is true and if Michael Clarke was part of either overtly or covertly conveying this defeatist attitude to the team, it is no wonder they were comprehensively beaten by England.
It is also no wonder then that Arthur lost his job. Perhaps not being Australian, he didn’t fully grasp the importance of an Ashes series. There is no difference whether the series takes place at home or abroad. The goal remains the same and that goal is winning. As far as test cricket is concerned, the Ashes is the ultimate challenge for every Australian. Success in an Ashes series brings rewards, while failure inevitably leads to a host of negative consequences.
Arthur was the first foreign coach to be in charge of an Australian team. I would suggest that he will be the last. Australian cricket – indeed, all Australian sport – operates on a series of values that makes them one of the top nations in several sporting codes. They are a small sporting nation and not everyone’s cup of tea, but whether one likes them or not, their grit, determination and confidence has to be admired.
As in the rugby world, where Robbie Deans found the going hard, so too Arthur struggled in an environment that is harsh. In order to coach any team – but especially an Australian team – successfully, the sporting ethos of that team has to be understood and respected. Clearly as far as cricket is concerned, an attempt was made to depart from the Australian way.
The current Australian coach Darren Lehman will have to work hard to get back that ruthless self-belief. He will also have to work hard at getting a stronger combination together for the return leg of the Ashes which gets under way in Australia in November.
Coaches, or indeed ex-coaches, who talk too much in public are a dream for the tabloids, so Arthur would be well advised to stop talking to the press. His job as the coach of Australia is done. Rather than making statements that don’t endear him to the majority of cricket followers, he should move on to the next phase of his career.