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March 20, 2013
Australian opener Ed Cowan has said he raised concerns with the coach Mickey Arthur and captain Michael Clarke about the slipping standards within the squad in the lead-up to the sacking of four players in Mohali. Arthur, Clarke and the team manager Gavin Dovey collectively took a hard line as a result of the general slide in behaviour and told four players, including the vice-captain Shane Watson, that they would not be considered for the Mohali Test after failing to complete a task set by Arthur.
However, the team management has been at pains to explain that the decision was not the result of a one-off lapse and that standards within the wider squad had been unacceptable during the tour. It later emerged that some of the minor infractions that had built up included players being late to meetings or physio appointments, wearing the wrong uniforms and giving back-chat.
Arthur has spoken of the way senior players like Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey helped maintain standards by their own work ethic and their retirements had left a gap in experience and example. As a result, Arthur said the developing group needed to be brought into line, and Cowan said he had spoken to Arthur and Clarke about what he felt were "little things" that were not being done.
"A few little things had crept in," Cowan said. "I had a few conversations with the coach and the captain and the manager about those little things and I'm sure a few other guys did as well. It wasn't just, 'right, this is the moment', there had been a build-up and there always comes a time where there is a breaking point and that happened in Mohali. But now it feels there is some solidarity behind the team moving forward and we're excited by that unity and why it has been created."
Nine days ago, unity was about the last word that would have been used to describe Australia's squad. Not only had four players been unceremoniously stood down for a Test, one of those players, the vice-captain Shane Watson, flew home for the birth of his first child and voiced his displeasure on the way. That led to a public exchange of words between Watson and Cricket Australia's general manager of team performance Pat Howard and questions were raised about Watson's status as a "team player".
However, over the past few days the tensions have eased and Watson rejoined the squad in Delhi for training on Wednesday and could yet captain the side for the fourth Test if Clarke is ruled out due to his back injury. Howard has also appeared in Delhi and the vibe at training on Wednesday was good, all things considered.
"We have been unified by what happened in Mohali and there is no doubt the tough decisions needed to be made if we aspire to be the best team in the world, which we do," Cowan said. "There had to be some tough decisions. It showed immense courage by the leadership group to make those decisions and the group is right behind that. It feels as though we have come together behind that and we feel quite buoyed by the concept of moving forward together."
Moving forward as one has been a key focus for the Australians over the past week, and part of that is senior men needing to show the way in a relatively young group. Although he has played only 16 Tests, Cowan is one of the leaders and if Watson does take charge in Delhi, Cowan would be a natural contender for the vice-captaincy given his mature approach. He said if the opportunity ever arose for him to captain Australia he would jump at the chance.
"Everyone in the team would love to given the opportunity," Cowan said. "My focus is to be a leader around the group, to make sure that Michael has adequate support, to be a leader in terms of how I prepare, how I carry myself on and off the field and how I contribute to bringing guys through and if the opportunity arises because a few people fall over or are injured or whatever then that's something you would love to do, you would never turn that opportunity down.
"For me leadership is much more than having a 'c' next to your name. It is about living the values and ideals that the team have put in place and hopefully people migrate to that. It's not just one or two people, it's five, six, seven core guys contributing to the team moving forward culturally and on the field."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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