Arthur's theme: The best that you can do
Mickey Arthur took charge of Western Australia in April knowing that his new side had been starved of success in recent years. Six months later, after a winter spent getting to know his players and putting them through training of an international standard, there is one mystery that Arthur is yet to solve.
"For me, the one question-mark is why they haven't performed better, because there's all the talent here," Arthur told ESPNcricinfo. "It is a really talented squad - Shaun Marsh, Mitch Marsh, Marcus North, Adam Voges, Liam Davis, Luke Ronchi - there's just so much talent. I just don't understand how and why they haven't performed."
Western Australia were one of the big guns on Australia's domestic scene in the 1980s and 90s, but triumphs have been rare over the past decade. They have not won the first-class title since the pre-Pura Cup era (1998-99) and their last one-day prize came in 2003-04. Only North, Michael Hussey and Aaron Heal remain from that winning side.
Voges is the vice-captain and is likely to lead the side semi-regularly, if the skipper North remains in Australia's Test outfit. He has sensed a change in the squad since the arrival of Arthur, the former South Africa mentor, and the assistant coach Lachlan Stevens, who joined the group in May.
"I've been around for eight seasons now and I've never won any silverware," Voges said. "I think we're really well placed. There's always that air of excitement when you have a change of personnel. Mickey and Lachy Stevens have been terrific so far. The guys have worked extremely hard during the pre-season. It's going to be a big year for everyone."
Arthur is often called a disciplinarian but it's a description that Voges believes sells the coach short. Voges said Arthur had instilled confidence in the team and encouraged the players to stick to their natural game, while ensuring that each man is clear on exactly what his role in the squad should be.
"He brings some fresh ideas, a bit of a change in direction," Voges said. "The little one-percenters that we probably weren't ticking off as much as we would have liked last year, he's very strict on that. He just has a real clear mind in the direction and style of cricket that we want to play. He's certainly stamped his mark in terms of those sort of things."
There is plenty of room for improvement from the Warriors, who finished last summer fourth in the Sheffield Shield and the Big Bash, and fifth in the Ford Ranger Cup. There were some positive signs in 2009-10, including the emergence of the allrounder Mitchell Marsh and Luke Ronchi's career resurrection after he was axed the previous season.
Voges believes the opener Liam Davis, who managed only four Sheffield Shield games last season due to a rib injury, could make his mark this summer. He also hopes the fast bowler Michael Hogan, who was a mature-aged recruit from New South Wales last season, can fill an important bowling role with the fast-bowling ranks hit by injuries. Regardless of which Warriors stand up, the new coach knows there is plenty of room for improvement.
"It's definitely a more talented squad than I expected," Arthur said. "Having taken them to international standard training, and trying to pull the standards up, they've responded really well. I'm incredibly excited, I really am. It's going to be really interesting to see how they go."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at Cricinfo