The Courier-Mail

From loner to loser

HOW AN ISOLATED MICHAEL CLARKE LED A NATIONAL TEAM TORN APART BY RIVALRY, EGOS AND FEUDING WIVES TO ONE OF SPORT’S GREATEST HUMILIATIO­NS

- MIKE COLMAN

MICHAEL Clarke refused to travel on the team bus or socialise with his team during the Ashes series – leaving the captain isolated from the players he was meant to lead.

The Courier-Mail can also reveal a feud between the wives of two of the senior cricketers caused friction between their husbands and contribute­d to the toxic environmen­t plaguing the touring party off the field.

On the night that Clarke decided to retire, teammates were stunned when he joined them for a rare drink in the hotel bar. But he ended up drinking with Shane Warne rather than any of the current side.

Coach Darren Lehmann last night confirmed a widerangin­g review would “look at all areas” of the losing Ashes tour. That would include the disintegra­tion in the off-field relationsh­ip between Clarke and his team.

Also reviewed will be the timing of brutal selection announceme­nts, with some players not told if they were in or out until an hour before play, and the unexpected dumping of Brad Haddin.

MICHAEL Clarke’s Australian cricket team disintegra­ted off the field long before the disgracefu­l defeat at the hands of England.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the disastrous Ashes tour has been dogged by a catalogue of off-field issues including:

• A long-running feud between the wives of two senior players;

• Clarke’s refusal to travel on the team bus or socialise with teammates;

• The sacking of popular player Brad Haddin following time off for family reasons;

• Brutal mishandlin­g of selection announceme­nts.

Australian cricket will now undergo the biggest internal review in its history, which under-siege coach Darren Lehmann says will “look at all areas”.

Lehmann last night admitted he and chairman of selectors Rod Marsh had failed in their roles, and Australia invested too heavily and too far down the track on ageing players.

Now as many as nine of the current squad may never play Test cricket again.

But it is the year-long disintegra­tion in the off-field relationsh­ip between Clarke and the rest of the team that cruelled any chance of success.

He often chooses to travel by private car instead of the team bus and rarely attends team gettogethe­rs.

On the night that he made his decision to step down, team members were stunned when he joined them for a rare drink in the hotel bar, although he ended the night drowning his sorrows with former teammate Shane Warne rather than any of the current side.

While the divide between captain and team will not be an issue with incoming skipper Steven Smith, the question of whether wives, girlfriend­s and children should be allowed on tour will continue to be a minefield.

It is known that the wives of two senior players do not get along, and that this has caused friction between their husbands, as has been the case with personalit­y clashes between WAGS on previous tours.

The performanc­e of selectors Lehmann and Rod Marsh throughout the series is another area of great concern, as Lehmann acknowledg­ed.

“As a coach and selectors we’ve got things wrong at certain times, there’s no doubt about that,” he

AS A COACH AND SELECTORS WE’VE GOT THINGS WRONG AT CERTAIN TIMES, THERE’S NO DOUBT ABOUT THAT

Darren Lehmann

said. “We’ve got to own up like players have to, and everyone else, that our performanc­es weren’t good enough, full stop.”

As the finger-pointing continued, Lehmann has questioned the decision of the head of team performanc­e Pat Howard, who chose to pick a joint West Indies and Ashes squad way back in early April, as a mistake.

Howard’s decision to name joint squads so far in advance was done for logistical reasons due to the back-to-back nature of the tours.

But Lehmann says in hindsight

it was a questionab­le plan that painted selectors into a corner on certain issues and contribute­d to a series of misjudgmen­ts they made during the Ashes.

For example, taking veterans Shane Watson and Brad Haddin on an Ashes tour, yet dumping them after just one match.

Asked to give examples of selection gaffes, Lehmann spoke of choosing batsman Shaun Marsh ahead of his all-rounder brother Mitchell for the fourth Test, which Australia lost badly.

But it was the way that players were informed, rather than the selections themselves, that investigat­ors should be reviewing.

The Marsh brothers were left stewing on their fate until an hour before the start of play at Trent Bridge, with Mitchell seemingly told he had been dropped by Lehmann, and then Clarke, while standing on the field, under the gaze of reporters.

Haddin, amid the trauma of his five-year old daughter’s hospitalis­ation, was not informed that his 66-Test career was over until he confronted Rod Marsh at training and refused to move until told one way or another. The dropping of Haddin, in apparent contravent­ion of the team’s “family first” policy has, despite management’s denials, upset some.

James Sutherland and his team will find plenty of obvious factors behind the current on-field debacle, from the full internatio­nal calendar preventing players gaining county cricket experience, to pitch preparatio­n and even the locally used Dukes ball.

But until they untangle the complex personal issues that created the perfect storm that capsized Australia’s Ashes hopes off-field, they will continue to be buffered by stormy seas.

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 ??  ?? EMOTIONAL END: Outgoing Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke, who will retire after this Ashes series, with his wife Kyly.
EMOTIONAL END: Outgoing Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke, who will retire after this Ashes series, with his wife Kyly.
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 ??  ?? PROUD PARTNERS: The wives and girlfriend­s of some of Australia’s cricket team during this year’s Ashes series; (inset) Michael Clarke and coach Darren Lehmann.
PROUD PARTNERS: The wives and girlfriend­s of some of Australia’s cricket team during this year’s Ashes series; (inset) Michael Clarke and coach Darren Lehmann.
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