Perth: Mickey Arthur has no regrets about his controversial decision to suspend four players for a Test during the tumultuous 4-0 series loss in India, saying he hopes the new disciplined approach will help Australia regain the No. 1 ranking.
Arthur dropped vice-captain Shane Watson, pace bowlers Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson and backup batsman Usman Khawaja for failing to meet a deadline in delivering self-critiques after the second Test. The punishment was widely ridiculed by ex-Test players as being excessive and treating the players like naughty schoolboys.
"It's galvanized our team," Arthur said Tuesday as he arrived back in Australia. "Our team responded fantastically well." The bare statistics tell a different story. The 4-0 series defeat was Australia's most comprehensive loss in four decades. It highlighted concerns over the batting depth in the wake of the retirements of veterans Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey and Australia's problems generally against spin bowling, particularly in the sub-continent.
After missing the third Test and rushing home to Sydney for the birth of his first child, Watson was elevated to the captaincy for the last match when Michael Clarke was ruled out with a back injury. The Australians were more aggressive in the fourth and last Test in Delhi, but still had no answers to the Indian spinners and the top-order batting let them down again, with Watson failing to find form. With the Ashes starting in July in England, it wasn't a good omen for the Australians.
But Arthur said the tour wasn't a complete disaster, and the players and management were in harmony about what was required to rebuild the team. "Hopefully this is the foundation for something good," Arthur said. "We want to get ourselves to No.1 in the world and give ourselves the best possible opportunity to do that. We've put some stuff in place that we think can get that team there over the next 24 months."
Arthur said the bans for the four players came after a number of warnings to the squad regarding discipline. "If we had our time again, we'd do the same thing," he said, adding that it "galvanized our team"
"The team needed to just be pulled together just a little bit and again we did it for that reason. With representing Australia comes massive expectation, we all are very aware of that, and with that comes a lot of responsibility, so we've done it to make the players really aware of what that is and what is expected of them."
Arthur said the bulk of the squad which played in India would be in contention for the Ashes series. "We felt that we took the best players possible to India, barring one or two guys that were struggling with slight injuries who will come back into the equation," he said. "We took a couple of guys that were pertinent to subcontinent conditions. But we feel that we had our best young batsmen there, no doubt about that, and to see them grow through the tour was fairly encouraging. We know that they have a bit of experience and are going to be better for it."