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Controversy may have given England advantage - Buchanan

ESPNcricinfo staff

March 17, 2013

Comments: 23 | Text size: A | A

Former Australia coach John Buchanan believes the axing of four Australian players for failing to complete a task during the tour of India has handed England an advantage ahead of this year's Ashes. Buchanan was known for using unconventional methods during his time at the helm of a highly successful Australia team and he said the drastic action taken by the team management in India could prove a masterstroke, or it could lead to the end of coach Mickey Arthur's tenure.

Arthur, the captain Michael Clarke and team manager Gavin Dovey collectively decided to leave Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson out for the Mohali Test after they neglected to complete a task set by Arthur. Following the innings defeat in Hyderabad, Arthur asked all of Australia's players to think about their performance and come up with three ideas on how they and the team could improve.

Arthur and Clarke called the decision to ban the four players a "line-in-the-sand" moment and they said it was the result of a build-up of minor infractions from the wider playing group, including being late to meetings, giving backchat and wearing the wrong uniforms. Arthur and Clarke want to build a strong culture within the team but Buchanan said the problem was that, with only three months before the Test squad assembles in England, it would be hard for such changes to take effect by then.

"At this point it could be a masterstroke or it could be the reverse and I don't think it will be anywhere in between," Buchanan told the Telegraph. "There is a very clear message there. Whether that is the right message or whether it has been delivered or arrived at correctly will show in terms of whether it brings about a change in the way this Australian group gel together or signify an end to what has been going on before. It will continue to ferment and there is only one loser if it goes wrong and it will be the coach.

"I definitely think it has provided some advantage to England but time will tell. There is a lot going on aside from this one issue. You have a new coach, new selectors, people leaving and arriving and a range of players coming in and out of different teams. What happened [in India] is a product of all that.

"I don't think there will be sufficient time for them to bed down before they get to England but it could be a masterstroke. This is about more than 10 [Ashes] Tests. This is about establishing a new team culture and fabric, a new way of being part of an Australia team that will be there for as long as Clarke and those he hands over to last. The last culture was started by Stephen Waugh when he took over as captain and lasted until Ricky Ponting finished as captain."

Part of the problem, Buchanan believes, is that players are more apt to be selfish if they are afraid of being left out of the side. Between rotations, injuries, retirements and regulation axings Australia have used 22 players in nine Tests since the start of their home summer. Across all formats, they have fielded 36 men in the national teams since the start of the Australian season.

"You cannot develop a team culture with so many people coming and going all the time irrespective of the format," Buchanan said. "It must create a lot of uncertainty in the group and with uncertainty comes less trust, less honesty and less compliance. Players look after themselves more.

"My view is the quality of Australian players is there to still be at the top of the tree. It just may mean that when you haven't got greats in the side you might not crush teams as quickly as before. With the talent they have, they should still get results but to me there is stuff going on that is not quite right and they are all searching for what that is. In the meantime that is creating uncertainty around those who are playing and those not being selected."

However, Buchanan said he believed there was "real merit" in the task Arthur asked the players to complete, because it had the potential to prevent individual players straying from the team culture in future.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Meety on (March 20, 2013, 3:40 GMT)

@ScottStevo on (March 18, 2013, 13:54 GMT) - its interesting that Anderson gets all the applause for being McGrath-like in his brilliance (if you listen to some England fans & writers), yet Siddle is out performing Anderson on the last two key criteria, 1. Sth Africa @ home, & 2. India in India. On top of that, Siddle has the better career figures, yet a lot of Pommy fans don't even think Siddle could make the England team, on top of that when he was a lessor bowler, during the 09 Ashes, he was the 2nd best wicket taker on either side.

Posted by mikey76 on (March 18, 2013, 20:24 GMT)

Scottstevo, The wickets we played on were no different to the ones you are having your back sides handed to you on. Our batsmen just had the skill and patience to prosper on them and the bowlers enough skill to exploit any help on offer. What selections are Australia going to make? Bring back Hodge and Rogers! Your top 7 is woeful and it doesnt matter how good your quicks are if your top order cant put the runs on the board you're going to lose 9 times out of 10. Anderson also didnt have a good record against you guys before 2010/11 and then what happened? If any of the wickets turn in England then Swann will be in business.

Posted by mikey76 on (March 18, 2013, 18:01 GMT)

Scottstevo, The wickets we played on were no different to the ones you are having your back sides handed to you on. Our batsmen just had the skill and patience to prosper on them and the bowlers enough skill to exploit any help on offer. What selections are Australia going to make? Bring back Hodge and Rogers! Your top 7 is woeful and it doesnt matter how good your quicks are if your top order cant put the runs on the board you're going to lose 9 times out of 10. Anderson also didnt have a good record against you guys before 2010/11 and then what happened? If any of the wickets turn in England then Swann will be in business.

Posted by   on (March 18, 2013, 17:59 GMT)

I think people forget that with our "Golden Age" team we never did well in India, apart from 2004 and that was almost 10 years ago. We do not have a decent spinner, so it is hardly unexpected. Our bowling line-up is probably 2nd best to SA, it is clearly our batting that is the worry. I agree that Hughes needs more time in Domestic cricket and we cannot continue to play alrounders such as Moises/Watson/Smith in the top 5. Cowan looks decent and almost like a B version of Katich., Warner will have his days and Clarke is in his prime. We won't beat England but we may draw the series. In Australia we might come closer to winning.

Posted by brusselslion on (March 18, 2013, 16:43 GMT)

I think that both Ashes series could be close. Australia have greater strength in depth amongst the 'quicks' and, arguably, the better 1st choice attack. If England lose Anderson or Finn to injury then we look 'light' in the seam bowling department: Your lack of a decent spinner shouldn't matter too much in England, unless we have a long hot summer (which would be welcome but a bloody big surprise!). Having said all that, Australia's batting line-up is pretty ropey, so whether you can give your attack something to bowl at is another matter.

Can any Australian posters please answer the following question for me: Why do you persist in playing Hughes, Lyon and Doherty? They are so obviously not Test class; there must be better alternatives, surely?

Posted by Kohli--The_Messi_of_Cricket on (March 18, 2013, 14:07 GMT)

Cowan, Warner, Khawaja, Clarke, Watson, Henriques (?), Haddin, Starc, Hilfenhaus/Johnson, Pattinson, Lyon/O'Keefe. This team stands a good chance of beating England in The Ashes.

Posted by ScottStevo on (March 18, 2013, 13:54 GMT)

@mikey76, don't kid yourself, mate. England definitely have a better batting line up, though if Aus make decent selections, we could have a good line up. Our bowling will be our key and if our players manage to adjust to the conditions and ball quickly, I think we will rock Englands line up on more than one occassion. Aus were never going to do well here in India, we haven't even when we had the best team ever...An upward trend - is that what you call winning one series in India??? Your spinners did well there and Anderson profited greatly from the fact England have 2 decent spinners as they didn't prepare the same dustbowls we've seen against Aus....remember that. Also, Swann has hardly got a decent record against us, so he's not really a concern of ours, unless, of course, you guys try creating a few dust bowls of your own - but then you'd just looked scared!

Posted by Meety on (March 18, 2013, 8:44 GMT)

Firstly - Buchannan is on the NZ payroll now so I wouldl take what he has to say with a grain of salt, 2ndly - I would imagine players who were insecure would actually be more likely to show more compliance. If I was (say) a batsmen with 3 or 4 other direct competitors for my position, I would be filling in every form, arriving early for training & jumping thru hoops to prove I wanted my position. So I think the whole premise of Buchanans arguement is flawed.

Posted by Showbags88 on (March 18, 2013, 6:39 GMT)

England are certainly the better side than us atm and I think we won't see the Ashes for a number of years yet (I will be pleasantly surprised if we get within 2 tests of England in England). It should be closer in Australia but I still don't expect us to win back the Ashes. Our next best chance will probably come in 4-5 years time when England's team starts to age/retire and Australia's youngsters are starting to come into their prime.

Posted by   on (March 18, 2013, 2:56 GMT)

Why wasn' the line in the sand drawn months before the team left Australia? Did someone forget? Or did not do their homework? Forget about England at the moment, let everyone concentrate on beating India in at least one Test.

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