Australian cricket June 12, 2013

Australia's discipline problem runs deep

The David Warner incident is the latest in a string of discipline issues that have hit Australian cricket recently

"Drink within your boundaries," said a pre-recorded Michael Clarke on the Edgbaston big screen a few moments before the match against New Zealand. It's possible he said it before the game on Saturday as well. Clarke is currently in London, getting intensive treatment on his back. Had he been in Birmingham, he may have been powerless to stop Warner from getting in trouble.

Despite what David Gower said, Australia does have culture, and at the moment that culture is toxic.

It's easy to overreact to a man punching an opponent a few hours after a game. Or even to take that one problem, and extrapolate it so that the system and all players are to blame. Young people today, eh. Wasn't like this in my day. These kids are running wild.

But Warner's punch isn't a one off for him, and many young Aussie players are doing things that are either blatantly stupid, or amazingly unprofessional way too often over the last couple of years. It's as if Australian cricket has turned into a giant crèche. Some of these things can be explained by Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting retiring, but it's deeper than that, and was around even before they left.

Brad Haddin's recall to the side, despite his replacement Matthew Wade averaging pretty much the same, shows that CA knows there is a problem. But bringing back one father figure isn't enough, this problem runs deep.

In this team is Mitchell Marsh. Marsh arrived at the cricket academy out of shape, he was almost sent home straight away. Eventually he was kicked out for being unfit to train after a big night out. That was July last year. A few months later, in October, Marsh was left out of a Champions League match for Perth Scorchers because his 21st birthday celebrations meant he wasn't in a fit state to play. His brother Shaun Marsh was also dropped from that game for the same incident.

Their former Western Australian team-mate, Luke Pomersbach, was in trouble during IPL 2012 when he was detained by police for alleged assault. The case was eventually settled out of court. Pomersbach has more than enough batting talent to slip into any of the three Australian sides.

Allrounder Daniel Christian was suspended after damaging not one, or even two, but three separate changerooms during the last Sheffield Shield season. Christian was fined and warned during the first two incidents, but still committed the third act.

Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson and Usman Khawaja were suspended from one Test in India after they didn't provide any plans on how they or the team could improve. Watson, the then vice-captain, left the tour straight after the incident, for the birth of his child. That followed on from the World Twenty20, where a player was heard undermining the captain George Bailey to opposition players.

Young Queensland batsman Chris Lynn was fined for attacking the alleged victim in an assault case on Twitter. Saying "She should serve 2 months in jail for her make up! #booyah". Lynn later apologised and noted, "Violence against women is not acceptable and I'm sorry that my words could been seen to condone that." Even Shane Warne was running around the Big Bash League, throwing balls at people and making a fool of himself.

Now there is Warner. Before last weekend, Warner's off-field history was fairly minor. Some bad tweeting with Brett Geeves a few years back, rumours of a personal curfew, perhaps some skinfold issues and being sent home from the academy for untidiness are hardly crimes. And neither is arguing with some press on Twitter. Sure, as a contracted player he was stupid to swear, but I am sure many players and journalists have sworn at each other in bars without us ever having to know about it.

A punishment will not do. A punishment won't stop the cause. These players have been warned, fined and suspended; they are still making mistakes, still being unprofessional and still making it harder for Australia to win matches

This latest incident is not fully known. And in some ways it's barely an incident. It took days to hit the press. Joe Root's jaw is undamaged. Perhaps Warner had a few too many one quid vodka and redbulls at the wrong time of night and did something stupid. But he did try to punch an opposition player. It is far worse than breaking a door in a changeroom or failing to fill in some feedback reports.

In the past, events like this happened all the time. A player gets a bit stroppy when he goes out. A young player enjoys the good life a bit much. A player is involved in a late-night incident that he should've steered clear of. A player bad-mouths his captain.

In the 1970s, it would have been sorted out, and the player would now be doing after-dinner speaking about the good old days. On Sky talking about his days, which were fairly recent, Jason Gillespie said, "If you stepped out of line off the field, you got into strife from the captain and the coach."

So how has Australia regressed since then? How is that a potential captain of the Australian team, in CA's own words, can take a swing at another player? I don't expect James Sutherland to be standing in the bar making sure Warner doesn't do anything stupid.

Culture is not an easy thing to fix. But this has happened under CA's watch. It has happened after their Argus review. It is affecting their marketing off the field. It is affecting their performance on it. They must find the problems and fix them.

A punishment will not do. A punishment won't stop the cause. These players have been warned, fined and suspended; they are still making mistakes, still being unprofessional and still making it harder for Australia to win matches.

Ex-cricketers were quick to abuse Pat Howard and Mickey Arthur for treating players like school kids. But they're acting like them, consistently. It's time for CA to look at the what is wrong with their current crop of cricketers. Or what is wrong with CA itself. This is a team that is losing on the field, and losing off of it.

This is 2013, if you want to be the best team in the world, you can't afford to be anything but professional. South Africa is the best side in the world, they are the best behaved, led, managed and performed in the world. Their players don't get caught in scandals, their team just works as hard as it can to win every match. They even managed to improve while there was a scandal around their board.

This Australian set-up is not behaving, the leadership is not around, the management is not working and the team is not performing.

Point no. 4 on CA's new strategy for cricket to become Australia's leading sport is, "Provide world-class leadership and management and unify Australian Cricket". This is the time when CA proves that is not some lip service that looks good on a plaque in their offices.

Clarke has not attended any of Australia's games in this tournament. The only cricket he has attended was Shane Warne's charity match on Sunday in the Cotswolds, a couple of hours from London. Warner was also there.

After Warner's twitter moment, Clarke said to the press, "Davey has great potential to be a leader of the Australian cricket team, he's a wonderful guy, he's a wonderful player, I know he's learnt from this". That was only a few weeks back.

Whatever Warner did learn, it didn't seem to help him on early Sunday morning.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • stuart on June 14, 2013, 14:30 GMT

    they should just let him play.That should be punishment for everyone

  • Dummy4 on June 14, 2013, 12:53 GMT

    Warne, Warner... Hope there's no kid called Warnest out there!

  • Rajesh on June 14, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    I think Australia can take a leaf out of the WI under Gibson.. they need to invest in a hard working captain like Sammy who has been quite successful in resurrecting the windies cricket.. they need to get rid of the Warner, Watto, Marsh's, Wade etc. and bring in honest (even if less talented) players like Bailey, Voges who strive hard to meet the needs.. Why is Wade or Hughes being persisted in spite of poor results.. Why do these Marsh's appear too often in the playing sheet when they have not played their part even in a single match.. And worst case is that of Watson, who scores in odd matches and then beams like a hulk.. the old Aussie culture is lost.. I think Clarke needs to step down as he is not fit for many matches and having stand-in captain like Bailey does more harm in affecting the discipline and focus of the squad..

  • Michael on June 14, 2013, 6:16 GMT

    Problems like Warner are easily solved........just tear up their contracts, its that simple. There are plenty of other cricketers out there who deserve a CA contract more than Warner but get overlooked because their marketability isn't like the Warners etc.....Australia are struggling for a good test opener yet England have a former Aussie in Sam Robson next in line to play for England and he's only 24, he's seen the writing on the wall in Australia and has chosen England....good luck to him.

  • Philip on June 14, 2013, 6:14 GMT

    I don't understand the apologists' line on this issue. Complaining about the potential harm that enforcing behavioural standards could do to the team's on-field performance in the short-term is just that - short-term thinking. In the long-term, enforcing behavioural standards can only help the team's performance. The message that seems to have been steadily filtering all the way down the system in recent years is one of behavioural standards being largely irrelevant at times. Therefore, a culture sets in that is hard to control or change. We shouldn't have to groom U19 prospects to behave properly. But we do have to when their "good role models" are nothing of the sort. Sure, player behaviour has never been perfect, nor should we expect it to be. However, there must be a point where we say enough is enough and we should have reached that point a long, long time ago. If we had, then the current poor perfomances, & they are indeed sub-standard, might well be better. As they should be.

  • Dummy4 on June 14, 2013, 5:47 GMT

    what CA is doing is not good for Australian cricket....what Warner did was wrong but not to allow him taking part in any cricket up to Ashes is ridiculous.....currently he is the most attacking batsman in your team....the press is blowing everything out of proportions ....why Warner need to explain himself before the press ...warner apologized to Root for his act and Root accepted,end of topic....move ahead.Let him do what he does best that is play cricket ....some former players were making fun of him on Twitter ....this is not the should guide young players not ridicule them on social media...

  • andrews on June 14, 2013, 3:27 GMT

    Do you think Wade's wicket-keeping may have just a little bit to do with Haddin being brought back?

  • Dummy4 on June 13, 2013, 21:41 GMT

    I don't really know what purpose the Argus Review is playing, in improving the state of cricket in Australia. I think the issue of discipline was always an old story with Cricket Australia. I think Ian Chappell, Allan Border and Steve Waugh, were great individuals both on and off the field when they played. I think the problem started when Ricky Ponting came on the scene, coz he had drinking problems at the start of his career. Shane Warne was also quite controversial off the field, and did his long-term captaincy chances no good really.

    But, in the late 1990's and in the 2000's, before the Argus Review came about, Australia were winning continuously, and Cricket Australia tolerated the bad and indisciplined behaviour of the players, and overlooked these issues. Then Mr. Andrew Symonds came on the scene, and he started misbehaving too, and then the cracks started to appear. But now these cracks have widened, and Cricket Australia is in a real pickle now, which is a real pity.

  • Eddie on June 13, 2013, 15:15 GMT

    The questions put to Warner should be, why is he out boozing at 2am? Mitch Marsh was there and hasn't learnt his lesson obviously. The incident took days to hit the headlines and Warner was back there boozing the next day as well. They are there representing their country, not on a holiday. If I go anywhere as a rep of the company I work for, I have to behave myself at all times. Warner is 26 and not a kid anymore. No more Ashes for him

  • Peter on June 13, 2013, 13:57 GMT

    Cricket used to be a game for introverts - five days matches, 8 ball overs, fifty yard runs etc. Plenty of time to think about things - the last ball, the field placement, the next shot, the state of the game etc. In the short forms of the game there is not time to think - just play the next shot. Suddenly it's a game for extroverts - but off the field we want them to suddenly become introverts. The problems talked about here are not character deficiencies, just character traits. When Ian Botham wanted to fight Ian Chappel, it wasn't worth making a fuss over, but now such an event is an indication of something wrong with the culture of the team becuase this sort of thing happens a lot - I would argue its because of the changing nature of the player population. Perhaps they should just leave the kid alone - he's twenty something, he will grow better judgement but he'll always be an extrovert who sometimes reacts immmediately to external events, just like he does to a bad ball.

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