Clarke sure friendships will endure
Michael Clarke is confident there will be no backlash against him from the four players axed for the third Test in Mohali over their failure to complete a task assessing themselves and the team. One of the four men dumped, Clarke's vice-captain Shane Watson, flew home to be with his pregnant wife after the suspension was announced but he also said he would use his time at home to reassess his cricket future.
The other three players, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja, remained with the squad ahead of the Test, which starts on Thursday, and will be considered for selection for the fourth Test in Delhi. The decision to make the quartet ineligible for the Mohali Test was taken by Clarke, the coach Mickey Arthur and the team manager Gavin Dovey in consultation, but Clarke insists his role will not hurt his relationship with the men.
"The players know 100% that this is not about the individual player," Clarke said. "I've made that very clear. The four players are very disappointed that this has happened. They respect the decision. They understand why. It has been made very clear why we have made the decision, as harsh a punishment as they might see it.
"I don't think it will have any impact on my friendship with the four guys because I know I've got the respect of those guys and they know how much I respect them. That's probably why I feel comfortable fronting players on these issues. I think it would be easy to walk away and let things slide. But they know how much I love playing for Australia like they do.
"They know how much I want this team to have success and achieve what I think we can achieve. And you know what? They want the same. There's only one way you get there. It takes the whole team pushing in the same direction. This is not about the individual player. The whole team sits on this level. These are our standards. If you're not hitting it, there's going to be consequences."
The consequences on this occasion are significant not only for the individual players but also for the team, as it leaves Australia with only 12 or 13 men (depending on the fitness of Matthew Wade) available for this week's Test. Brad Haddin was flying out of Australia on Monday to join the group as cover for Wade but could also find himself in with a chance of being included as a specialist batsman even if Wade is passed fit.
It also means that on a pitch that could offer more for the fast bowlers, Australia have only two frontline quicks - Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc - available, alongside the allrounder Moises Henriques. On a surface where they may only have wanted to play one spinner they could now be forced to play at least two of Xavier Doherty, Nathan Lyon and Glenn Maxwell.
"We didn't even look at the name of the players," Clarke said. "That's what has to happen when you sit everyone on the same level, it doesn't matter who you are in this team. If you do not hit the standards it's unacceptable. Now we have a squad of 12 players to select 11 from. We'll pick the best 11 we have out of 12; 13 because Haddin is coming as well.
"It has huge impact on the team for the third Test match. But it's why you pick a squad. It gives somebody else an opportunity. And that's the biggest risk in this game. You give somebody else an opportunity and you might never get another chance. That's what's happened here. It gives four new blokes a chance at playing a Test match and grabbing hold of this opportunity."
The fact that Australia will now enter a Test without their vice-captain and leading wicket-taker in the series is potentially calamitous after the team lost by an innings in the previous Test in Hyderabad. But Clarke said after the build-up of players not falling into line in recent times, an example had to be made.
"There is no right time, there is no right punishment," Clarke said. "I don't think it's about picking and choosing. The fact is that we have a standard that we're trying to set, we have goals that we're trying to achieve and at the moment we're not hitting our standards. It wasn't a big ask. You let the team down, you let the head coach down. That's unacceptable.
"Our support staff are spending time one on one with players to help them improve their game slowly. I feel partly like a coach as well as a captain. At training we talk about spin bowling, I feel like I'm coaching. But we are a playing group - and there is no exception - we as a playing group have to be helping ourselves as well."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here