'Standing down as selector one of best things I've done' - Clarke
Michael Clarke has admitted his relinquishment of selection duties before the Ashes allowed him to grow closer to other players in the Australian team. He also acknowledged the cultural concerns raised by Michael Hussey before his retirement were among "a lot of things" not up to standard in the team leading into this year's dire results in India and England.
Hussey stated that Clarke's dual role as captain and selector had affected the Australian dressing room during his final two summers as part of the team, causing players to "keep their heads down" whenever their leader passed through. For his part, Clarke said the selection role had deprived him of time to spend with the rest of the team, as long meetings and phone hookups sapped his schedule and mental energy.
"You'd have to talk to the other guys about how they felt, but personally I think standing down as a selector has been one of the best things I've done since taking over the captaincy," Clarke said. "It is a full-time job and they deserve a lot of credit for the work that goes in to being a selector, but giving that time back to me has allowed me to give it back to the team, spending time with the boys whether it be longer at training or off the field.
"Instead of selection meetings and being on the phone for hours, I'm having coffee, lunch, breakfast with my team-mates now and trying to help all of us. They're giving me their time as well to help me become a better player and a better captain. I have more time for them, definitely."
As early as the 2012 West Indies tour, Hussey had become uneasy about the direction the team was taking, despite a sequence of strong results including a 4-0 Test series win at home over India, and the subsequent 2-0 result in the Caribbean. Hussey revealed in his autobiography, Underneath the Southern Cross, that he had met with the former coach Mickey Arthur to express his concerns formally. Clarke said Hussey did not raise them directly with him, but did not deny there had been problems.
"I was conscious of a lot of things that were going on round that group that weren't of a standard that was acceptable, in my opinion, of representing your country and being part of a team that wants to get back to No. 1 in the world, hence what happened in India," Clarke said. "In regards to guys just looking after themselves, that's probably a question for the other guys. For me personally, I've been very fortunate the teams I've played with at a young age, even starting with NSW, I was always shown and educated that you can't always have good days in this game.
"You're going to have some tough times and you have to enjoy the success of other players, and when the team wins, that's got to feel just as good as you making a hundred - I was brought up that way. I can't answer that on behalf of the other guys, but there was obviously a lot of things going on over a period of time that I didn't think were good enough.
"I think the media and the public got to see the frustration and the consequences of that. But I can guarantee that has changed now, I think Darren Lehmann's done a wonderful job since he came in, the feeling in the group is outstanding and the boys are all heading in the same direction."
Arthur's successor, Lehmann, said he had instituted team rules and regulations to ensure standards were met and players were considerate of each other. "That's Mike's view and he's one of the greats of the game. But I haven't seen that in the time that I've been there, and we're trying to go very much in that team direction," he said. "We have some team rules and regulations they have to follow, if they don't adhere to them then there's always trouble from the coach. Occasionally I get grumpy but not most of the time.
"It's strange to say this, we lost the Ashes but it was one of the best tours I've been on. For getting to know the players and the way they gelled as a group on and off the field and with the staff, it was a really good tour."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here