Discipline deserts Marsh brothers again
Cricket Australia's chairman Wally Edwards hopes the off-field troubles among the Perth Scorchers players in South Africa could be the catalyst for a change of culture in the state's cricket scene. Edwards, who played Sheffield Shield cricket for Western Australia during the 1970s and also serves as the WACA vice-president, said the problems in South Africa were "a huge disappointment" for a state that hasn't won any silverware for eight years.
The Marsh brothers, Shaun and Mitchell, were axed from the Scorchers' last match in the Champions League Twenty20 after a night of partying to celebrate Mitchell's 21st birthday and could face disciplinary action from the WACA. However, News Ltd reported that at least half a dozen players were out on the town last Thursday and a shortage of playing numbers meant some kept their places for the Scorchers' last match.
Unfortunately for the Scorchers and the Western Australia state side, a lack of off-field discipline has become all too frequent in recent years. Mitchell Marsh was sent home from the Centre of Excellence this year after turning up to a training session hungover, and Shaun also has a history - in 2007 he and state team-mate Luke Pomersbach were suspended after a boozy night.
"As a West Australian and an ex-West Australian player, we've been concerned about their lack of performance for the last ten years," Edwards said. "The team hasn't performed well for various reasons. What's happened in South Africa is obviously a huge disappointment for everybody associated with West Australian cricket. I'm sure the new [WACA] board that will be in place as of next Wednesday will be looking very hard at it.
"Lack of success usually has many, many reasons. There are lots of small things that you have to get right. If you don't get them right things don't work out well. I'm sure the current chairman [David Williams] and Dennis Lillee as president and the new board that will be inducted next Wednesday night in Perth will take a very serious look at it. Maybe it's something like this that makes them really get involved and sort things out."
Edwards will not be part of the new WACA board as of next week, when constitutional changes will be introduced that will sever his official ties with the state as part of Cricket Australia's push towards an independent board. The discipline problem will be a matter for Lillee and Williams, and more immediately for the WACA chief executive Christina Matthews.
"I don't have all the facts but clearly there has been things going on in South Africa that shouldn't have," Matthews told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I have asked team management to have a full report on my desk by Monday morning. We'll be sitting down as a management team to examine that report and go from there.
"Everybody wants to talk about the Marsh brothers but this is not just about them. Clearly there is some sort of discipline issue; the players didn't prepare themselves adequately for what was an important game. That is something we need to look at very seriously."
The discipline problem in South Africa was first raised by Simon Katich, who said after the Scorchers' loss to Delhi Daredevils on Sunday that the team had "got what we deserved" for not preparing well enough. After Tuesday's consolation victory of Auckland, the captain Marcus North confirmed that players had "let the team down in preparation last week".
Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland said he was disappointed to learn of the issues in the Scorchers camp and he hoped both Marsh brothers could learn from the experience and return to the kind of on-field form that resulted in them both being chosen to play for Australia within the past year.
"You don't like to hear of or read of those sorts of incidents," Sutherland said. "I don't know enough about the facts. I know it's kept Christina Matthews pretty busy in the last couple of days. I'm sure she'll be closely focused on working on that with her board.
"From our perspective, both Shaun and Mitchell are players of national interest. Perhaps Shaun hasn't done as well since he made that great hundred on debut and it would be great to see them both back very firmly in the focus of the selectors' eyes. They're still extremely high potential players as far as we're concerned and we hope to see them performing very soon."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here