Arthur reveals two-series strategy
Australia's former coach Mickey Arthur has revealed the tourists planned to inflict damage and gain intelligence on England in the away series before pushing hardest to regain the Ashes in the return bout at home. He also said the 3-0 scoreline would not have changed irrespective of selections because "that is what we've got at the moment".
While the new coach Darren Lehmann had stated before the series that his objective was simply to "win, win, win", there had been some suggestions that Cricket Australia would be content with a competitive showing in England, provided the home matches would reap a winning result. Arthur confirmed that he and the captain Michael Clarke had been talking in terms of using the first series to prepare for the second.
"We had a goal that I will reveal. We wanted to try to push England really hard in England, but we wanted to win in Australia, this is what Michael and I wanted to do," Arthur told ABC Radio. "We didn't go into the series ever to lose it, but we wanted to develop enough intelligence on all the England players, we had a lot but there was going to be some current stuff we could use.
"We were going to really push them close, give the players in our team the confidence to see that England could get beaten, and then go for them in Australia. That was how we wanted to go about our escapade there. You could have put anybody in [the team], the results were going to be the results because that is what we've got at the moment. That is the current crop of players. But as coaches it's such a good challenge because there's so much unfulfilled potential that you can make better."
Arthur was not the only senior CA figure pushing this view before the start of the series, and some players are understood to have been taken aback by the attitude when they assembled together in Bristol before the tour officially began. It remains to be seen whether the current leadership of Clarke and Lehmann have managed to glean enough from this series to help them at home.
Looking back on his time as coach, a period ended suddenly in England before the Ashes tour and then played out acrimoniously in a legal battle with CA over severance payments, Arthur said a 4-0 defeat in India and its associated disciplinary problems had been a major blow. For that he cited the BCCI's desire to avenge an identical series ledger in Australia in 2011-12, duly preparing pitches to suit the purpose.
"India was a really tough tour for us in so many ways. I've been privileged to tour India a couple of times and those were the worst conditions that I'd ever seen," Arthur said. "They hijacked us, and they clearly wanted revenge for the 4-0 series win we had got when they toured here the last time.
"One goes back to the Perth Test where the wicket was green and we played to our strengths and won the Test in two and a half days. They clearly wanted retribution for that and produced some of the toughest conditions I'd ever seen. They went out of their way to prepare those conditions and I can't argue with that."
Despite the circumstances of his departure, Arthur said he had been watching the Ashes series very closely. Too closely, perhaps, for members of his family, who had asked him why he could not let it go. "I've been watching every ball of the Ashes," he said. "My family has been saying 'let it go' and I can't. I've spent too much time with these boys trying to make them better cricketers, I've got to watch it.
"I am talking to the television. The funny thing as a coach is with a trained eye and knowing the psyche of all the players, I can sit and watch something developing and know what's going to happen an over later. I'm going 'don't do that again, keep hitting straight, they're trying to set you up for the lbw ... keep hitting straight, oh across the line, damn lbw again'."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here