Clearly, it was not the 'homework' alone that has led to Australia's coach jettisoning a quarter of his team hours before the Mohali Test. But if it was indeed the last straw, then the players (if not the public) need to be told just what the earlier straws were. If nothing else, it will stop the speculation currently swirling around, not all of it connected with cricket.
That such a decision was taken in the middle of the series with the possibility that it will further dampen the morale of the team suggests a crime of such intensity that in the real world, it might invite a life term in prison or even the hangman's noose. What can that be in cricketing terms? It is difficult to imagine. Players have been caught doing a variety of things in the past – from urinating on the wicket to dunking a rival umpire in the swimming pool, from taking banned drugs to sleeping with a colleague's wife – so the bar is pretty high.
In the absence of any real information therefore, it might be unfair to throw so many brickbats at Mickey Arthur, the one who signed the death warrants, although one is not so sure about Michael Clarke, the captain. Although Arthur is the one copping all the criticism, it is doubtful if things would have got this far without the acquiescence of Clarke. For, by endorsing the Arthur Doctrine, Clarke is admitting to his own failures in man management, especially since among the four banned are Shane Watson, his vice-captain, and James Pattison, his leading bowler. Or is it actually the Clarke Doctrine, with the captain using the shoulders of the coach to fire from?
Australia have been a team in transition for a while now, and it has been fascinating watching them begin to get their act together under Clarke. From being in transition to disintegrating on a tour of India has been a startling change. The cliche 'can't bat, can't bowl, can't catch' has been extended with the addition of 'can't think'. Sometimes, it is better to allow simmering discontent to simmer for a while in the greater interest of keeping the team together than to search for the final straw with such assiduity.
It is possible that the Australian team will play better without the troublesome foursome, but the manner of the dismissal and the reasons given for it have only made the Australians a laughing stock around the cricketing world. You only have to read the comments by former players and the cartoons that have been inspired by the incident ("Pup ate my homework") to realise this. They are gloating in England, India and anywhere else the Australians have played and won. Australia's cricket is in a shambles at the moment, and the latest has merely added to the mess. On the other hand, Arthur might argue, this is probably the best time to get rid of some flab while serving a warning to the rest.
Somehow, through India's worst phase in recent times last year (4-0 defeat in England, followed by a 4-0 defeat in Australia), the team didn't disintegrate. The temptation to send some people home, and drop others, must have been strong. Such an action often gives the impression of the decision-makers doing something positive. Had the players been asked to come up with three bullet points to suggest areas of improvement, it would have been interesting to see how some of them would have reacted. Most would have merely copied their answers from Rahul Dravid's notes, I think.