Clarke's influence reduced in wake of Arthur sacking
Australia's captain Michael Clarke has insisted he had nothing to do with the summary removal of Mickey Arthur. If that is so, it confirms him as a figure of much reduced influence in Australian cricket, after a sharp decline in the team's fortunes that have been overseen as much by Clarke as by the dramatically deposed coach.
It was not long after his return from a nightmarish India tour that Clarke decided not to continue as a selector, reducing his power by choice as a way of committing more time to his batting, his captaincy and his increasingly fragile back. During the tour Clarke had observed that he was feeling increasingly like a coach in the absence of the retired Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting, a remark that did not reflect well on Arthur or other players expected to take the mantle, Shane Watson among them.
Now the removal of Arthur and his replacement with Darren Lehmann as a kind of surrogate leadership figure as well as coach has underlined the fact that Clarke's skills are limited to those of a gifted batsman and agile on-field tactician. Clarke was not informed of the move against Arthur until late in the decision-making process, and from now on is likely to have less of a say in wider issues around the team.
"This a decision made by Cricket Australia, it's had nothing to do with me personally, nothing to do with the players," Clarke said. "For us and now Darren, it's really important we look forward to what we have ahead of us and making sure we have success on this tour.
"We have no excuses. The Australian public and us as players want to have success. We know what the expectations and standards are off the field as well in regards to behaviour, and we have no excuses for not upholding those values. We've been very disappointed with our performances so far on this tour and we have to turn that around.
"No doubt we have a less experienced team after losing Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting, but that's not an excuse. We're very lucky in Australia, we're brought up with a fantastic first-class system where standards apply there as well. So we know the behaviours that are required to be an Australian cricketer, we know what performances are expected of us, and we need to improve in both areas."
The rest of the job fostering a young team will now fall largely on Lehmann's shoulders in concert with his assistant coaches, and there may also be some guidance for Clarke from Lehmann on how to lead a team in the hours between stumps and the following morning.
"I'm certainly accountable for both on-field and off-field as captain of the team," Clarke said. "It is partly your responsibility, there's no doubt about that. I think with a young team and in life you make some mistakes. We've seen a couple of guys over the past 12 months make some errors in judgement but the thing for us as the senior players and the management of this team is to make sure we are pulling guys up when they don't meet the standards and let guys know what is expected of you as an Australian cricketer.
"I've said before this team is like no other, it's a very special place and there's a lot that comes with it. [The decision is] a shock to all the players. I think we understand though that we haven't performed as well as we'd like. Our performances in India were unacceptable, we haven't started this tour well and we know we expect higher of ourselves. We need to be the ones to turn that around."
It was hard not to notice the political machinations around the dressing room once players were aware a selector was constantly in their midst. David Warner was one player who worked assiduously at building his relationship with Clarke, more diligently it may now be argued than he did at scoring runs. However, neither Clarke nor the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland were prepared to admit the dual roles of captain and selector had been hurtful to the building of the team.
"I had a few conversations with James Sutherland and Pat Howard when I returned from India. The decision for me to stand down was brought to their attention a while back," Clarke said. "It was just about timing - I think it gives me an opportunity to spend that time with the team. Being a selector is a full-time job and for me I'd much prefer to be concentrating on the boys and being able to help them as much as I possibly can in preparation and performance.
"I think I have a fantastic relationship with the guys, the decision I've made is wholly and solely something I've felt personally. I felt it was the right time for me to step aside and focus on giving the team as much as I possibly can."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here