Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, Usman Khawaja and James Pattinson have all been sent back to Australia from the tour of India. After the humbling defeat in the second Test, the coach Mickey Arthur asked each player to think of three ways in which individual performances or the team’s in general could be improved.
He wanted each player to email, text, post, hand in or send by pigeon their responses by the Saturday night, giving them the best part of a week to complete a very simple exercise.
By Monday morning, the four players aforementioned had not completed the task. Arthur, Michael Clarke and the team manager decided this was to be a ‘line-in-the-sand moment’; they decided to send the four back.
In the last week we’ve seen an Australian team’s destruction both on and off the field, and a New Zealand side dominating the English.
2 + 2 = 5.
It is far too early to truly judge the impact this decision has on Australia’s national cricket team, but it is almost impossible to, right now, view this punishment as being in any way the correct one. To make an example of the squad’s vice-captain, highest wicket taker and most promising bowler is a PR disaster. Already Shane Warne has been tweeting up a storm, blaming, as he always does, the coach.
For once, he might have a point.
These four players were undoubtedly ignorant and irresponsible. They all should have known better, Watson especially. But surely such a misdemeanour must be handled internally, with a post-mortem tackling the issue once this VITAL tour is over. The third Test is imminent, and should Wade be ruled out (as looks likely) Australia will have twelve players to choose from (and that’s if you’re even counting Steve Smith and Maxwell as Test players in the first place).
The loss of Pattinson and Johnson means Australia will have to go in with a spin-heavy attack; so far their spinners have been completely ineffectual.
The loss of Watson and Khawaja means Australia will be forced to re-shuffle the side, including more unproven all-rounders. It also means the Phillip Hughes will hold his place, which is surely the last thing he, and Australia, needs with his confidence shot and his technique hopelessly a flounder against decent quality spin bowling.
News is coming out that Shane Watson is considering his Test future (and for once not his ‘role’ in the side). If the player who has been the ‘man-who-will’ of Australian cricket for over a decade, and who was the one to carry on Australian success into a new generation, retires, it is difficult to see Arthur and Clarke’s reign maintaining the respect of this squad and future ones.
Watson has been emblematic of Australia’s post 2007 team and has been given every possible chance to succeed. Should his Test career end in such an ugly way, his thoroughly average record will be forgotten and he will be transformed into a symbol of the current administration’s failings.
Australia, overnight, have overtaken their antipodean neighbours as the true champions of mis-management. They are now fighting to avoid a white-washed series and the English side might afford themselves a smile.