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Optimist Arthur hopeful of Australia's Ashes prospects

Daniel Brettig

March 26, 2013

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Australia coach Mickey Arthur speaks to the media in Perth, March 26, 2013
Mickey Arthur appeared confident that Australia could put up a strong performance in the Ashes © Getty Images
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Death by dust in India will make the the green fields of England seem heavenly for Australia's Test team, which remains on course to be the best outfit in the world within the next two years. No-one could ever accuse Mickey Arthur of being a pessimist, but with the aforementioned statements the national team coach redefined the boundaries of wild optimism while accounting publicly for a deplorable performance on the subcontinent.

On the day national selector, John Inverarity declined to guarantee Shane Watson's place as the vice-captain or even as an Ashes team member, and the seriousness of Michael Clarke's back and hamstring problems were confirmed, Arthur struck an almost alarmingly upbeat note. Yes, he had fussed a great deal over taking a young team to India and all its attendant dangers, but Arthur had no such qualms about England.

"I was always really worried about the conditions in India, especially with a group of young players," Arthur said in Perth. "Because you can sit and tell players what it's like to play there, but until you've actually experienced it, you don't comprehend it. The Ashes conditions are a lot closer to what we're comfortable with, our pace bowlers will be a real factor in England.

"Our batters will be more accustomed to those conditions, so I'm confident everything's still on track. It is disappointing when you have a tour of the subcontinent just before a tour as big as the Ashes, because it does have the ability to pull you off track, but we're firmly on track for the Ashes and conditions will favour us."

As for the team's chances of rising from the mid-table ICC ranking they have occupied since 2010 - alternating between 5th, 3rd and the present 4th - Arthur reiterated his argument that the disciplinary action taken against those players who failed to follow instructions would be the start of the climb back to world No. 1.

"I think we moved forward, moved in the right direction and, hopefully, if we have our time again, this will be the foundation of something really good for the Australian cricket side," Arthur said. "We've said it numerous times now; we could have carried on and been third in the world comfortably, but we don't accept that, we want be No. 1 in the world.

"We've put some stuff in place that we believe can get this team there in the next 24 months."

In India, many of Australia's players did not only look initially unready for the conditions they faced, but were unable to find the technical and mental wherewithal to learn and adapt with each innings. Irrespective of how the team's discipline broke down off the field before four players were suspended from the Mohali Test, those indiscretions were arguably less serious than dismissals indicative of plans being ignored, if there were any in the first place.

The sweeps played by David Warner and Phillip Hughes in Hyderabad, plus a few other inattentive strokes by Watson at various stages, laid bare a lack of thought and application next to the mental toughness and intelligence shown by India's young batsmen. This is a problem that will require cure rather than prevention if, as Arthur suggested, there would be only minimal changes to the 17-man squad for the trip to England.

"It'll be similar, I can't see too many changes," Arthur said. "We felt we took the best players possible to India, barring one or two guys who were struggling with injuries. And we took a couple of guys who were pertinent to subcontinent conditions. But we feel we had our best young batsmen there; to see them grow through the tour was fairly encouraging, we know they've got experience into them now and are going to be better for it."

Arthur added that players knew exactly what they needed to do going forward into the Champions Trophy and the Ashes, but stressed that the side's batting would have to improve. "It's disappointing to have only two hundreds over the last couple of months," he said. "We had a couple of 90s, but we need to start converting and scoring big in that top six. We'll have a real good quartet of bowlers available to us and we just need to get enough runs to be really competitive in the Ashes."

Between three Australia A matches and two tour warm-up fixtures preceding the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge, Arthur and the Australian selectors will have a far better spread of games from which to pick their best side for England. However, Arthur would not accept the suggestion that more might have been done to get the team in the right space to be more competitive in India.

"Everything we did, we've done with a lot of reason behind it that's not always apparent to people who don't know what's going on in the inner sanctum," Arthur said. "We feel we have the best players, they'll be better for the experience. I think the selections have been good, I think we took the best possible squad out there to perform."

Arthur also said that while the selectors and management did everything they could in the run-up to the India series. "I'm confident, as selectors and management, we've done everything in our power to make the guys as good as they can be," he said. "We had spin camps, prepared the guys endlessly, and ultimately you can't replicate those conditions under that pressure."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Beertjie on (March 27, 2013, 22:12 GMT)

If Australia were not in such dire cricketing straits, I'd say sack the lot of them from their leadership posts including Clarke. OK so he stays on as skipper, but at least rid the team of that sanguine idiot Arthur even if Rixon is the interim coach. At least there's a chance of better tour selections. If only Invers, Marsh and Bichel had some insight into why certain types of players will likely fail in given conditions, while others will likely succeed. The only reason for Maxwell, Doherty, Henriqs etc being picked was because they possessed 'potential'. With the season over and the India tour history, cool reason is needed. Top available bat: Rogers. Top spinner: O'Keefe. Best keeper with decent recent batting: Paine. Promising all rounder: Faulkner. All these statistically determined on FC performances. Surely then the team picks itself: Rogers, Cowan, Hughes, Clarke, Watson, Warner, Paine, O'Keefe, Pattinson, Harris, Bird. Squad: Siddle, Starc, Wade, Faulkner, Doolan, Ahmed/Lyon.

Posted by Thefakebook on (March 27, 2013, 9:39 GMT)

If the same team goes to Eng then don't expect the results to change too much as well.

Posted by AKS286 on (March 27, 2013, 8:37 GMT)

@HatsforBats on (March 27, 2013, 7:38 GMT) Mate you miss Captain's role on peace, responsibility & unity. Cook, Smith, Dhoni, Rahim, Sammy are good leaders and act as mentors as well as friend they respect seniors and encourage all the rookies. But for Clarke he axed seniors for respect and divided the whole team into seniors, ponting's players and Clarke's favourite. Clarke only encourages few players like lyon, wade, cowan, warner, starc.

Posted by AKS286 on (March 27, 2013, 8:11 GMT)

The poblem is that now a days too much expectations from all- rounders. Earlier allrounders are support to batsmen or finishers & called golden arm bowler or support to complete 10 overs in odis or if any bowler is expensive then they complete their overs.examples are C.Cairns( my favourite), klusener, B.Macmillan, Harvey, Moody, Razzaq, A.mahmod, c.Harris, old Watto, symonds, Flintoff, Craig White, Ealham, n,Johnson, bravo, k.Atherton, etc.

Posted by HatsforBats on (March 27, 2013, 7:38 GMT)

...oops, Anderson (probably) would make the Aus side but I'm backing a combination of Pattinson, Harris, Bird, & Starc to be very effective with the duke. I think the biggest positives for England are their administration (sensible), team unity (the Aussies seem to be all over the place) and their coaching staff (Flower & Gooch is a great combination). The Australian set up is a shambles and the teams performance over the last two years has been in spite of CA's ineptitude.

Posted by HatsforBats on (March 27, 2013, 7:27 GMT)

@jmcilhinney, I wouldn't put much stock in the Australian performance in India. The batsmen were very poor because they simply do not have the skills for those conditions. Remember the scoreline for our last two series against SA is 1-2, Aus are much more comfortable against pace on true decks (the 47 all out notwithstanding). The Ashes squad wil also be quite different: no Maxwell, Doherty, Henriques, Wade batting @ 7. England were very poor against NZ, but they have a lot of grit and some special talent in their batting as they've just showed. The bowling is fairly even; Swann (definitely, if fit) & Anderson (probably

Posted by jmcilhinney on (March 27, 2013, 6:05 GMT)

I think that both teams will be looking to the Ashes with some trepidation. For Australia, conditions will obviously be very different to what they encountered in India so their performance their is not a great yardstick, but they were so terrible in India that it's hard to see them being great for the Ashes. For England, they've done poorly in NZ against a lowly ranked, although seemingly improving, NZ outfit in conditions that should have suited them relatively well. How much of NZ's performance can be attributed to England not putting pressure on them and how much is them getting genuinely better remains to be seen but, for England, they'll want to put in a vastly better performance against NZ in England. If they do then, as an England fan, I'll feel more confident about the Ashes in England at least. With Hussey gone, Australia need to get more consistency from several key batsmen, Watson not least of them. As for the bowlers, Starc may be the biggest threat with a Duke ball.

Posted by fazald on (March 27, 2013, 5:29 GMT)

Arthur seems to be quite happy with Australian cricket teams recent performance in India and says that it needs only minimal changes to the team for the Ashes series which means that the writing is on the wall already for a 5-0 whitewash. You must be kidding. I reckon atleast half a dozen players that were selected for the Indian tour to say the least were even below test standard.The selectors were clueless about the prevailing spin bowling conditions in India selecting a strong fast bowling attack of five and a half baked spin bowling attack comprising of Lyon, Doherty(of T20 fame), Maxwell and Smith who hardly bowls these days. As such the outcome of the test series was no surprise. Why was Steve O'Keefe the leading spinner this season overlooked?Our batsmen lacked technique against both spin and swing bowling and we could expect more of the same in England. I reckon the biggest stumbling block to aussie cricket is the T20 "Big Bash" League which is proving to to be the deathnell.

Posted by Meety on (March 27, 2013, 5:10 GMT)

@ tanstell87 on (March 26, 2013, 11:10 GMT) - "Tasmania have won the Shield & Queensland has been making final for consecutive 2 years...bring in players from these 2 teams in test side" - then you don't select any QLDERs, & select the LEAST performing FC batsmen that Tassie has (Bailey). QLDers worth considering Harris & Burns, Tassie - Doolan, Silk, Paine, Faulkner & Butterworth. @bumbles11 on (March 26, 2013, 17:31 GMT) "..They will need to get Cook, Trott, KP, Bell, Bairstow/Root, Prior all out before they get to bowl at Broad and Swann..." - big talk, but tell me, how is Compton/Bairstow or Root any better than ANY of the Ozzy batsmen???? Also, I would say our #8,9,10 & 11 have done a darn sight better than anything that your bottom 4 have done - by a long way!!! @Davo234 on (March 27, 2013, 3:40 GMT) - not arguing, just saying, I definately would NOT play Harris until the 2nd Test at Lords. (In fact I would take Harris specifically for that one Test)!!!!

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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