Forget Spain, Arthur needs to look at Australia

Updated: 21 March 2013 15:58 IST

Some of those men were also brilliant fielders. Border had a superb throw, Warne had great hands in the slips and Boon pouched some stunners at short leg. As long as your shape doesn't noticeably impact on your on-field performance, it shouldn't be an issue. There are several young players who spend inordinate amounts of time in the gym, with little to show for it in terms of athletic or fielding prowess.

"This is a line in the sand moment," wrote Mickey Arthur in his blog for Cricket Australia. "A point we'll look back on in a couple of years' time when we're back to number one in the world and say was a defining moment."

The article was a spirited defence of the controversial decision to drop four players ahead of the Mohali Test, from a man who's clearly passionate about his job. Whether you agree with the severity of the punishment or not - and most old-school pros don't seem to - Arthur's attempt to explain the reasons for it should be applauded.

There were a couple of things he mentioned, however, that should have made Australian fans uneasy. One was this: "Being late for a meeting, high skinfolds, wearing the wrong attire, back-chat or giving attitude are just some examples of these behavioural issues that have been addressed discretely but continue to happen."

Being tardy, engaging in backchat and bad attitude are all deplorable. Few coaches would stand for that. Nor should they. By wrong attire, he presumably means the way players dress when in public as representatives of Australian cricket. It can't be about a player wearing board shorts and thongs by the poolside.

That brings us to 'high skinfolds', and that's where I have a problem. A behavioural issue? Not necessarily. Some individuals are just more prone to putting on weight, and no matter how hard they work, a chiselled physique remains elusive. The beauty of cricket, football, rugby and other skill sports is that physique isn't everything. Lionel Messi, the best footballer in the world, is tiny, hardly a candidate for Man Power model. George Gregan, one of Australia's greatest scrum-halves, was diminutive compared to some of the giants whose tackles he easily burst through. And if skinfolds are your criteria, Shane Warne, Steve Waugh, Allan Border, Merv Hughes and David Boon would have had very brief careers for Australia.

Some of those men were also brilliant fielders. Border had a superb throw, Warne had great hands in the slips and Boon pouched some stunners at short leg. As long as your shape doesn't noticeably impact on your on-field performance, it shouldn't be an issue. There are several young players who spend inordinate amounts of time in the gym, with little to show for it in terms of athletic or fielding prowess.

Winning Test matches is about batsmen averaging more than 50, bowlers whose wickets cost less than 30, and fielders who don't put down the chances that come their way. Australian cricket needs to worry more about finding people who can do that than about how many skinfolds they have. How they could do with a Boon or Border on this tour.

It's also time that the team management started listening to the right people. When there's so much unease among the great players who have worn the baggy green in the past, you know something's not right. "We want to be the Spanish football team, Manchester United or McLaren of world cricket," wrote Arthur. "The absolute pinnacle where high standards are not expected, they are second nature."

Funny choice of teams to emulate. The Spanish football team was a synonym for mediocre underachievement till 2008. What they've achieved since is unparalleled, but that has everything to do with a generation of outrageously talented players. For the system that produced them to be lauded, you need far more than five years of success.

United, for all their domestic success, have never dominated European football. Real Madrid won the Champions League thrice between 1998 and 2002, and Barcelona did the same between 2006 and 2011, while playing football of a quality seldom seen before. That is the pinnacle.

As for McLaren, one constructor's championships in two decades and a lone driver's title since 1999 don't really scream dominance. If bridesmaid status is what Australian cricket is aspiring to, then standards really have dipped.

But forget Spain and Barcelona. Why not just learn from the most dominant sports team of the modern age? Australia's cricketers won 16 Tests in a row twice, first under Steve Waugh and then Ricky Ponting. Spain's footballers never managed more than 15 on the trot. There were also three consecutive 50-over World Cup wins, the last two without a single match lost. Arthur, of all people, should remember that side. They pulverised his South African team repeatedly. That is true greatness, and it's there in your own backyard. Why are you even looking across the fence?

If Hayden, Warne, Chappell, Martyn and many others are unhappy about the current direction, give them a listen. Forget management gobbledygook, spreadsheets and presentations. Cricket matches aren't won with PowerPoint slides or text messages. Go back to basics and listen to the men who executed them best. They knew what they were doing.

Topics : Cricket Australia India Mickey Arthur Australia in India 2013
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