Australia in India 2012-13 March 6, 2013

No. 1 still in sight - Argus


Australia's ruinous Test results in India have not dissuaded the architect of the plan to rejuvenate the national team from his view that the world No. 1 ranking can be attained by 2015. Don Argus, the former BHP chairman, authored the review released in August 2011 that overhauled the structure around Michael Clarke's team, resulting in the appointments of Mickey Arthur as coach, John Inverarity as national selector and Pat Howard as the team performance manager.

Those changes wrought promising early returns, but the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey left Clarke to lead a gapingly inexperienced side to India where the vagaries of playing on the subcontinent have contributed to a humiliating duo of defeats. Nonetheless, Argus told The Age he was adamant that Australia were still capable of achieving for the sustained success striven for in his review, provided those in charge were not panicked into compromising on its dictums.

'I wouldn't compromise on that at all," Argus said. "It's like a five-year plan in a company - if you commit to something, you've got to get it, and all these players have committed to it. I don't believe in blind faith. I believe in a lot of hard work, and it doesn't come tomorrow. I think there's a lot of effort going into getting this team to its goals. I've got great faith they will get to where they want to get to.

''Stay the course, but also recognise the challenges that are there. We tend to fall back into thinking we've still got this side with seven champions in it. Maybe that will come again, but that just doesn't come overnight.''

Argus was largely supportive of the path taken by Howard, Arthur and Inverarity in following through on his directives, though he admitted it was "debatable" whether the area of spin bowling weakness was being adequately addressed. He stated that current impatience with the team's results could not be allowed to change the path that had been committed to.

''I think they have been quite bold in implementing a lot of the stuff and going down the recommendation path in the report,'' Argus said. ''Everyone wants instant success … and the trouble when you go through a transition or succession phase is that impatience manifests itself into a bit of emotion. Up until this series, the guys have done pretty well in trying to unearth new talent and things like that.

Everyone wants instant success … and the trouble when you go through a transition or succession phase is that impatience manifests itself into a bit of emotion
Don Argus

"Everyone is going to have to hold their steel here to get the ultimate outcome, because if you start thrashing around in water then you drown, and up until now I think they've held it pretty well. I think India is probably the toughest environment of all to blood new talent and that's what is happening over there.

''I'm not that despondent. I think it's probably teaching the selectors a lot more about the strengths and weaknesses of the squad. I don't think they could put together a better squad. They've tried a lot of people and you can add a few here and a few there, but they've gone about a process quite systematically that will get us there in the end, but it was never going to be a short-term fix.''

Addressing questions about whether the selectors had adequately fulfilled his stated goal that performance had to be rewarded more consistently with national team representation, Argus said Inverarity's panel had done so "by and large", though Xavier Doherty's Test recall after a barren home summer was a deviation.

''Selectors will sometimes make subjective judgments for whatever reason … I'm sure they can justify their selections," Argus said. "Up until probably that one [Doherty], they've stuck with what they've said they were going to do, and I think that has paid off for them.

''They've won in the West Indies, they've comprehensively won two series at home [against India and Sri Lanka, but also lost to No.1 team South Africa], and they go to the toughest environment in the world with an inexperienced side in those conditions, and it's tough.''

Suspicious in the review of the impact that the then nascent Big Bash League may have on international performances and focus, Argus said compromises in the name of commercial gains would result in the team being compromised.

''If you deviate from your priorities, if you compromise on your plan … you'll always get caught out," he said. "If Test cricket is the No. 1 game, and we say it is, that's the way it is."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Philip on March 8, 2013, 21:25 GMT

    Give them time and they'll get better is a true enough expectation - but in some cases that improvement won't be enough. And there has always been a place for improvement - it was called the first class arena. County cricket was a major proving ground for Australian batting - the freezing out of Australians from the English domestic scene is about the most successful strategy England have come up with since Bodyline! The Sheffield Shield seems no longer sufficient on its own to finish the players to Test standard yet it is precisely this competition and the grade ones below it that we must persist with, more so than some of the players. For it is the competition that makes the players just as much as it is the players who make the competition. And that is why, if some of the current Test team do not stand up quickly under the competitive conditions of the next two Indian tests, then their days should be numbered. And for some, their number is already up.

  • Philip on March 8, 2013, 21:12 GMT

    It is true that quite a few of the Australian team are yet to reach their peak years. However, can anyone actually explain how, if peak years are so important, so many good players in their peak years have recently been ignored for selection - players like Hodge, Klinger, Rodgers, Hartley, McDonald, Hopes, Ferguson etc? All of these have been in their "peak" age bracket and that obviously hasn't been seen as an important factor. How come it is now so important to pick younger ones and let them grow into their job? And if we are going to do that, how come some like Handscomb (for his batting), Richardson or Ludeman haven't been included in their number? Some of the younger ones will most likely pay off. Starc comes to mind. Pattinson has something about him, even if it would be better if he let the ball do all the talking. Henriques may be worth perservering with. Warner, however many he makes at times, has technical issues. Hughes ditto plus. Wade ditto twice. Maxwell is bits & pieces.

  • Bhaskar on March 8, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    Don Argus is just being over confident, he just wants everybody to support his so-called report so that his name keeps flashing in the media for more months to come. It is like an age old saying in Tamil language - Even when a fighter losses in a muddy wrestling fight he got up after losing & says his mostache has not hit the mud". This is what Argus is saying too.

  • Subhadip on March 8, 2013, 5:20 GMT

    its not about being no1 on papper..india also got to that position some time back. but was they really no1 who can perform under all conditions?? absolutely being a india fan knew all through thats we were far off being the best test team in all conditions..similarly australia may become a potent side a couple of years down the line & get to that no1 position..but will they be able to perform under these spinning conditions?? i doubt very much..simply because of the quality of spinners in ther side.none look to the realy deal..all bits a pieces.its fine backing once's strength but let face the truth, u cant beat the conditions.their batters might start plying spin better, but i cant see how their spinners will better.

  • Allan on March 8, 2013, 4:32 GMT

    I am sure in 1-2 years we can get to number 1, just need to stick the course and ensure performances are being rewarded. Khawaja should be bought in and rewarded for domestice performance and so should our leading spinners and fast bowlers. We do this and we will get there.

  • Brady on March 8, 2013, 2:39 GMT

    Argus' thinking is correct. Players like Hughes, Warner, Khawaja, Wade, Lyon, Pattinson, Starc, Cummins are well off their prime in terms of age (prime being about 28-33 in my books for cricketers). Really, the only cricketers that could be said to be in their prime in the current lot are Cowan, Warner, Clarke and Siddle (and Cowan and Watson-minus-bowling are pretty ordinary as a test cricketers). This really is an Aussie team for the future - the players I listed above all have the potential to have 10 year/100 test+ careers as fantastic international cricketers provided they are managed with common sense. In the mean time some losses (and yes big ones too) must be tolerated.

  • Philip on March 7, 2013, 20:50 GMT

    My eyes must need testing. I can't see a number one from here, unless it's a batsman's score or a spinner's wicket tally. We were lucky to get within cooee of SA at home, we can't match India away and if we have hope about the Ashes it's more to do with England's performance yesterday than our own ability. The 2nd XI of our glory years was better than our current 1st XI and no-one seems sure what that should be except that it involves tolerating flaky batting, bad glovework and bits-and-pieces all-rounders at the heart of the team. We can't back spinners without better keeping. We can't keep backing short-form all-rounders in Test cricket. And we can't produce enough quality batting. Sure, we have pacemen, but since when is 1 out of 4 a pass mark? So, I'm sorry Mr Argus, your argonauts may well look for the golden fleece of number one but I doubt they'll find it anytime soon, especially with the likes of Khawaja, O'Keefe and Paine/Hartley continually overlooked for lesser players.

  • Nix on March 7, 2013, 16:09 GMT

    Here is my opninion as a South African on the team for Aus going forward:

    1. Cohen (persevere with him - although he is not hot right now give him a chance to settle in, I like his temprament and think he is solid) 2. Shane Watson (one of aus better players - given him responsibility to focus on his batting solely) 3. M Clark (Impact player and match winner - get him in early so he can have the same impact as an Amla for SA - Clark is an awesome player and is wasted comming in at 5 or even 4) 4. Brad Hodge (now I know he is old and all that but aus need experience in the middle order and he is a quality player) 5. Ferguson - great talent 6. Brad Haddin - quality player (experience) 7. M Henriques - (extra bowling option plus batting depth) 8. M Johnson (quality bowling allrounder - plus x factor) 9. J Pattinson (awesome talent) 10. P Siddle (workhorse) 11. X Doherty (or okeefe)

  • Senthil on March 7, 2013, 15:20 GMT

    With such perfromances?, it is a great joke. Beating WestIndies, Srilanka and India at home can not make Aussies great, These teams are ordinary, still may be. Loss against SA signify that Aussies never reach No 1 team at least for a while. Hussey should have been in the team for a while.

  • Ray on March 7, 2013, 14:52 GMT

    @Barnbarroch on (March 7, 2013, 10:51 GMT): Please leave Hughes where he is. Make sure that you also bring Doherty and Lyon to England. Mitch can also come; he likes the UK! You can leave Clarke, Pattinson and Starc back in Oz, mind.