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
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
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.