'Watson was one of the guys I lost' - Arthur
Mickey Arthur, who was sacked as Australia's coach just a fortnight before the Ashes began, has spoken out on how he "lost" Shane Watson and tried to mould the younger players who came with "big egos".
The cracks in his relationship with Watson, Arthur said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, first appeared on Australia's tour of India in February this year, which the visitors lost 0-4. The side's on-field problems were exacerbated when Watson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja were suspended for the third Test of the series for not completing a team-building assignment.
That incident, Arthur said, was a tipping point. "My relationships were outstanding, except with Watson. He was one of the guys I lost. India was where it started going wrong, when we suspended those players.
"If I sit back and think, 'Would I do it [suspend the players] again?' ... well, I probably would. Because I believed so much in what we were trying to do."
Arthur said he was disappointed how "people backtracked" after the players were suspended.
"I met with all our staff before I did it and our staff were adamant that was the right way to go. I ended up making those decisions and then ended up bearing the brunt of them," he said. "I just get annoyed because I put everything into it and I put my head on the line with a lot of big decisions and a lot of the people who were very keen for us to make those decisions then backtracked.''
He was forced to take a tough stance, he said, because the team lacked direction and leadership. "I understood that I drive the ship, but the ship needed conscious changes - it needed value changes. We put together this whole values document for all the young players coming into the Australian side. They got a booklet and we told them exactly what the expectations were, because the young guys coming in didn't know.
"They're good players, they're not great players. They're earning obscene amounts of money and they've got big egos, but they don't know the best way to go about it. So we put in these definite guidelines because we had no leaders there."
Despite the sour note on which his tenure ended, and his subsequent severance battle with Cricket Australia - which finished in an out-of-court settlement - Arthur said he was disappointed to see the team being thumped in the Ashes. "I couldn't imagine waking up and being 0-3 down in the Ashes now. But I don't get any pleasure out of watching them struggle."