SYDNEY (Reuters) - Mickey Arthur’s appointment as the first foreign coach of the Australian team 19 months ago was supposed to usher in a new dawn for the proud cricketing nation after the humiliation of their first home Ashes defeat for 24 years.
But the South African’s reign ended ignominiously when he was sacked in England on Monday, leaving Australian cricket in disarray just 16 days before the start of another Ashes series at Trent Bridge.
Results on the pitch this year have been bad enough, reaching a nadir with the 4-0 test drubbing in India, but the affable 45-year-old’s fate would seem to have been sealed by the perception that discipline in the squad had collapsed.
Opener David Warner’s attack on England batsman Joe Root in a Birmingham bar in the early hours of the morning after a Champions Trophy defeat this month appears to have been the final straw.
Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland was left fuming by the incident and captain Michael Clarke made it clear that he did not think six Australian cricketers should have been out drinking late into the night after a defeat.
Clarke and Arthur were both made selectors on the recommendation of the Argus review into the calamitous 2010-11 Ashes series, so the coach’s departure has considerably more significance than his predecessor’s exit.
The new structure, which also included the appointment of former rugby international Pat Howard as Cricket Australia’s general manager for team performance, now looks to have been dumped unceremoniously.
Arthur was appointed in November 2011 after a highly successful spell as South Africa coach and charged with taking Australia back to the top of the test and one-day rankings.
His first series in charge was drawn 1-1 with New Zealand before the Australians rode roughshod over an underperforming India side in 4-0 home series sweep.
In 2012, Australia won a test series in West Indies before taking on the number one-ranked Proteas back home and losing out in a hard-fought three-match series 1-0.
A 3-0 series sweep of Sri Lanka over the New Year was also encouraging and hopes were high that Australia would at least be competitive in the back-to-back Ashes series being played in 2013-14.
Those hopes took a battering on a miserable tour to India with events reaching the level of farce when a struggling team was robbed of four players, including vice captain Shane Watson, after they failed to perform a written feedback task.
“Homework-gate” as it became known, was portrayed as a line in the sand to define team culture for a tough year ahead, with Arthur revealing that back-chat and “attitude” had become the norm.
“I’ve reflected long and hard because it’s been a really tough 12 days - probably the toughest ever of my coaching career,” Arthur said at the time.
”What we’ve got is a team of inexperienced but very talented young players and our leadership style had to change towards them.
”We had to demand excellence. We could sit and wallow in mediocrity and stay third or fourth in the world.
“Or we could take a paradigm shift in everything we did - put the team first, be ruthless on team etiquette and basics and give ourselves the best possible chance of winning the Ashes and getting back to number one in the world.”
Warner’s punch indicated that the paradigm shift had not come and, even if Australia had shone on the pitch and qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions Trophy they were defending, Arthur’s days may still have been numbered.
Editing by Ed Osmond