Champions Trophy 2013

Clarke concedes captaincy damage

Daniel Brettig

June 15, 2013

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Michael Clarke and David Warner at a press conference, London, June 13, 2013
Michael Clarke has had more than a bad back to worry about in England © Getty Images
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Australia's captain Michael Clarke has conceded the actions of David Warner and other team-mates in Birmingham have constituted a serious blow to his leadership. And the coach Mickey Arthur has said that Shane Watson remains to some extent at odds with the team's management, despite the camp's furious denials it was the allrounder who pushed for Warner's punishment after the matter at first appeared likely to be kept in-house.

The lack of strong examples and leaders around the team, both in England and earlier this year in India when four players were suspended for failing to follow team instructions, have pushed the Australian tourists into an embarrassing corner as they teeter on the edge of Champions Trophy elimination and also creep closer to the Ashes. Clarke, who was absent from the team in its important early days on tour due to another flair in his chronic back condition, admitted his captaincy had been damaged by the episodes.

"It certainly has an impact on the leadership. There's no doubt about it," Clarke told AAP. "I think we as a leadership group need to continue to try and improve. I do believe we have come a long way in regards to the culture of this team and setting up our behaviour standards and what we feel is acceptable and non-acceptable. As captain of this team I don't shy away from any accountability."

No less an authority on captaincy than the former England leader Michael Atherton has observed that Clarke's absence from the early days of the tour were particularly ruinous to a young team, whatever the circumstances, for it left them without the man tasked with setting markers for what he expects on tour. The vacuum was illustrated by the fact that Warner was arguably the most senior of the group of players - also including Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade, Phillip Hughes and Clint McKay - who found themselves out drinking at Birmingham's Walkabout pub at 2.30am following their loss to England.

"To be out at that hour … carrying on like we were celebrating [after a loss] - especially with the opposition - is not the right time or place to be having a few drinks," Clarke said. "I know that I need to continue to work on my leadership and make sure I'm doing everything I can in my power for things like this not to happen.

"Because it not only has an impact on Dave, it has an impact on the team, it has an impact on our supporters. The people that come and watch and support our great game. We don't want to be letting anyone down. We've got enough to focus on on the field to become the best team we can be. And we definitely don't need these distractions off the field."

Arthur, meanwhile, has said the former vice-captain Watson still had some way to go to regain the full trust of the team's leaders. Nonetheless, he reiterated Clarke's denials of a television report that suggested Watson had protested at the initial lack of action over Warner's misadventures after the suspensions of four players in India for nothing quite so outlandish as punching an opposition player in a pub.

''We are continually working at that. And Shane is unbelievably professional and gets on with his business in a very professional way,'' Arthur said. "I don't see it as anything particularly bad or anything that's not fixable. Shane obviously lost a little bit of trust after India and we work on that every day.

"And Shane has been fantastic in the way he's come back into the environment and approached that. I chat to Shane every day and we've been through it all. Guys know exactly what the punishments are. And like I said, we have a very solid process in place now."

Australia must defeat Sri Lanka at The Oval on Monday to have any chance of reaching the Champions Trophy semi-finals.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by spindizzy on (June 19, 2013, 7:02 GMT)

The problem is that the administration want to pick the captain years in advance and mould him to their way of thinking. It's got nothing to do with real leadership, purely their 'PR message'.

The captain of a team should emerge from the players naturally, not be groomed by administrators years in advance as Clarke was. In Clarke's case it has lead to an air of illegitimacy to his captain - he's the boards captain, not the teams.

Indeed, currently there is no actual Australian 'team' - it's just an ever-changing group of players, many of whom only seem to be selected to meet the administrators pre-destinations...

Posted by LALITHKURUWITA on (June 18, 2013, 10:58 GMT)

I do not like the current Aussie culture in Aussie cricketers because there is no disciplines. Sack any cricketer who violate any discipline. Then others will learn. Until then there will not be any improvements. Looking at Clerk face, he is more worried about players disciplines rather than match results. Please follow NZ, SL and WI cricketers. More players from these teams have smile most of the time.

Posted by   on (June 18, 2013, 1:09 GMT)

Mike Hussey's retirement has left a huge hole in the team, on and off the field. Rebuilding this side will be long and painful.

Posted by   on (June 17, 2013, 23:48 GMT)

As a Sri Lankan I can see independantly how Watson is performing excellently in a different context of IPL.I think it is all to do with Clark's captaincy and the context it creates. We seem to have run out of excellent captains in Aussy.

Posted by   on (June 17, 2013, 16:08 GMT)

Let us not scapegoat only Warner and Australia for the off field behavior of players. Late night carousing during cricket tours is a common activity of many teams and players. ICC should perhaps step in and create and implement rules of conduct for all players in tournaments, whether it's an off day or not. This kind of conduct is unbecoming of professional players at any time.

Posted by bjg62 on (June 17, 2013, 11:18 GMT)

@Jarrod Harris: I agree with your suggestion of replacing Arthur with Langer 100%. What's more, Langer has not only had success, but also had the experience of coaching the basket-case that WA cricket is - good grounding for coaching this team as it is now. My understanding is that he couldn't be considered for the Australia coaching position at the time of Arthur's appointment 'cos he didn't have international coaching experience. I think it's time to throw all that out the window and start again....

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (June 17, 2013, 9:29 GMT)

This has been building for some time, and underscores what many see as the current state of leadership within the Australian team. Clarke is a weak leader of men, and has long showed this inability. The problem is he commands little respect from players like Warner, and that as a result players like Warner have mimicked the same unilateral mindset that his captain has. Still Aus cricket goes sliding downwards, A new captain is needed immediately.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (June 17, 2013, 9:15 GMT)

@Claydo78, I disagree with your statement regarding Watsons return for the birth of his child and I doubt you would be saying such things if Aus were still riding the crest of the wave.

As it is most companies give time off for fathers to be at the birth, and Watson isnt the first Aussie cricketer to return home from a tour for such things.

I do agree with you about Warner though he definately has some unresolved anger management issues, and really should have been sent back to Aus to see someone, however as an England supporter, I'm suprised they havent tried to set up a 1 month contract one of the regional leagues (eg Lancs League), minor counties or, 2nd county 2nd Elevens.

Posted by Big_Maxy_Walker on (June 17, 2013, 3:32 GMT)

Clarke is obviously a phenomenal batsmen and a good on field captain. But his off field leadership leaves a lot to be desired. He has his favourites and others he treats like dirt. Warner, Cowan, Hughes etc are part of the boys club whose punishments Clarke wants kept in house.. While Khawaja and Watson get treated differently and publicly shamed for small wrongs. And don't get me started on Arthurs. He is the Robbie Deans of Australian cricket. The sooner Darren Lehmann is appointed the new coach the better

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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