x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

India v Australia: Cricket coach Mickey Arthur defends Australia suspensions

With India looming, Australia cricket coach Mickey Arthur defends his decision to axe four players before their third Test starts Thursday and says it could be a defining moment for the squad.

Australia coach Mickey Arthur, centre, has caught some heat over the last week after he suspended four players before the team's third Test with India. Brendon Thorne / Getty Images
Australia coach Mickey Arthur, centre, has caught some heat over the last week after he suspended four players before the team's third Test with India. Brendon Thorne / Getty Images

Mickey Arthur, the Australia coach, said on Wednesday a team culture including unacceptable "backchat" and "attitude" forced him to controversially axe four players for the next Test in India, which starts Thursday in Mohali.

The move to suspend the vice captain Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson has polarised opinion in Australia among both fans and pundits.

Arthur said it was the culmination of "lots of small minor indiscretions that have built up to now" and would be looked back on in years to come as a "defining moment" for Australian cricket.

"When we sat down as a leadership group and made these tough decisions I knew it would polarise public opinion, but internally I certainly know we've made the absolute right decision," he said on the Cricket Australia website.

"This is a line in the sand moment – a point we'll look back on in a couple of years' time when we're back to No 1 in the world and say was a defining moment."

Trailing 2-0 in the Test series, all the players had been told to prepare feedback on how they could improve and were given five days to deliver it. Watson, Pattinson, Johnson, Khuwaja failed to meet the deadline and paid a heavy price.

In justifying the surprise moves, Michael Clarke, the captain, on Tuesday said the players had shown a lack of respect for Arthur, and noted a general slide in attitudes on the Indian tour.

With the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, Australia took a relatively young and inexperienced team to India. The South African coach said management had provided "lots of latitude and flexibility".

But with Australia due to play two Ashes series against arch-rival England this year, starting in July, Arthur said the attitude issues had to be addressed promptly.

"Being late for a meeting, high skin folds [body fat], wearing the wrong attire, backchat or giving attitude are just some examples of these behavioural issues that have been addressed discreetly but continue to happen," he said.

Demanding that all players raise their game, he added: "We want to be the Spanish football team, Manchester United or McLaren of world cricket. The absolute pinnacle where high standards are not expected, they are second nature.

"Australian cricket fans deserve nothing less."

Hosts look to continue their winning ways in Mohali

India will hand a debut to the batsman Shikhar Dhawan in Thursday’s third Test as they look to further beat down an Australia side facing a mountain of problems.

The tourists’ preparations for the match in Mohali are in disarray both on and off the pitch.

The decision to drop four players for disciplinary reasons means coach Mickey Arthur has only 12 from which to choose. Also, the wicket-keeper Matthew Wade has an ankle injury, with Brad Haddin called up as replacement, if needed.

On the pitch, Australia trail 2-0 in the four-Test series after heavy defeats in the opening two matches, the second by an innings and 135 runs, and they will be looking to salvage a draw with some much-improved performances.

In comparison, India come into the Test on the back of two outstanding performances and with the luxury of coach Duncan Fletcher being able to name a debutant in their line-up.

Dhawan will open the batting in place of the experienced Virender Sehwag, who has been dropped after a dip in form, and the 27-year-old Delhi native is looking to sieze the opportunity. “The confidence of the team is high but as our coach told us, we have to start afresh,” he said.

“We had a break after the second Test, so we want to go with the same attitude and same energy on the field as we did before the start of the series. I just want to grab this opportunity. Of course I was waiting for this day, but I don’t have any pressure right now..”

Dhawan was reluctant to discuss Australia’s problems, but believes they can cope with the absence of fast bowler James Pattinson.

“Even if there is no Pattinson, there will be someone who can step up for them,” he said. “Pace has always been their strength.”

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