June 26, 2013

Arthur's fall, and a yearning for bloodlust

Why Henry VIII would have applauded the ruthlessness and efficiency of Mickey Arthur's axing

We humans can be a beastly bunch. Our history is littered with incidents of great leaders unjustly cut off in their prime. The dispatching of Mickey Arthur is just the latest shock decapitation in a bloodstained tradition that goes all the way back to the rather abrupt termination of Julius Caesar's contract just weeks before a big series against the Parthians.

Henry VIII would have applauded the ruthlessness and efficiency of the Arthur axing. One moment Mickey is admiring himself in his Cricket Australia blazer, rehearsing his pre-Ashes speech; the next, Chief Executioner Sutherland is holding up a still-warm press release, and announcing to a baying crowd of journalists, "This is the resume of a traitor."

Sadly for Mickey, there's no Octavian to rally the troops in his name. Instead, Australian cricket's nobility are falling over themselves to say what an excellent execution it was. We outsiders may frown at the idea of sacking a coach three weeks before the Ashes. We may think it a tad risky, perhaps even foolhardy, but then what do we know? This is, after all, Cricket Australia. I'm sure they know what they're doing.

The ex-pros are convinced: Darren Lehmann will do well because he is a good bloke, which it seems is just about the best thing you can have on your CV. He's going to do away with all that complicated stuff involving analysis, planning and whatnot, and go back to the way things used to be: manly beer bellies, a quick jog round the field to limber up, and pies for lunch. Success is almost certain to follow.

Mickey isn't the only casualty in this Week of the Long Knives. Asad Rauf and Billy Bowden have been bumped off the list of Elite Umpires, and any day now the Champions Trophy may receive a lethal administrative injection. As far as I could tell, the thing was looking bushy-tailed and full of life, but the ICC knows best. The Champions Trophy is an ex-tournament.

On the other hand, it might not be. Renowned for their intellectual flexibility, the chaps in Dubai have to choose between a tournament they've already promised to axe but would now like to keep, and a Test championship they've already promised to introduce, but would quite like to ditch. Which way will it go? You'll have to follow the live coverage of the ICC Annual Conference over the next few days to find out.

Some say there's too much sports administration these days; they say we have boardroom overkill, but this annual bash has always been popular, with a global audience of millions tuning in for the ICC's madcap mix of zany announcements, outrageously poor arguments, and sexy procrastination. If you can't catch the TV highlights, don't worry. ESPNcricinfo will be running a live minute-by-minute update service, so you won't miss a single bad decision.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here