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March 19, 2013
Australia coach Mickey Arthur has said the selectors would welcome Michael Hussey back if he decided to make a return for this year's Ashes series, given the lack of experience in Australia's Test squad. However, Arthur said he was confident that in time the younger members of Australia's team would be capable of filling the vacuum left by the retirements of Hussey and Ricky Ponting, although their absence had contributed to the slipping team culture over the past few months.
Arthur also conceded he had put his job on the line with the uncompromising decision to leave four players out of the Mohali Test due to their failure to complete a task in which they were asked for ideas on how they and the team could improve. But he said such a move was necessary to bring the culture of the team back to where it needed to be following the departures of Ponting and Hussey, whose intense work ethic served as examples to their younger colleagues.
A Hussey comeback appears unlikely given his decision to retire was made largely due to his desire to spend more time at home with his young family, and the Ashes tour would require him to be away for two and a half months. But the Australians have missed Hussey badly during the ongoing Indian tour and given that he has remained a solid run-scorer in the Sheffield Shield, Arthur said the door would be open if he wanted to return.
"We'd certainly listen to Mike Hussey if Mike Hussey came knocking at our door," Arthur said. "But that's a hypothetical at the moment. He's retired. We've moved on now, you know. Yeah we miss him. We miss the aura of Ricky Ponting. But I'm hoping that these younger players will take over that mantle in time to come. They're nowhere near ready yet.
"But in time to come they've got to step up and take on those mantles because they're going to be the role models for the next generation of cricketers. I'm confident we've got the best players here. These guys just need to be given that confidence and just need to stand up. I'm pretty sure they will."
However, the young squad did need a rev up from Arthur, captain Michael Clarke and team manager Gavin Dovey last week when those four players were left out of the team. The bold decision was described by Arthur as a line in the sand after standards had slipped among the wider playing group during the Indian tour, from players being late to meetings to wearing the wrong uniforms, to giving back-chat.
The decision has split opinion in the cricket world and although Cricket Australia's board backed the team management in their move, Arthur is well aware that it could be a make-or-break moment in his coaching career. Arthur took the reins of the Australia team in late 2011 but it is 2013 that will define the Arthur-Clarke leadership team, with two Ashes series coming up. Things have not started well in India.
"I would say I've put my neck on the line," Arthur said. "But I've put my neck on the line because I'm really passionate about Australian cricket and I'm very passionate about this team. I want this team to achieve ultimate success and that's to get to number one in the world. It was needed. It had to happen and the responses have been fantastic. I'm comfortable. It was a week of massive pain. It really was. But I'm comfortable.
"I sit here now knowing that this team is going in the right direction. People will say why did it take so long. It took so long because the team was running itself, because we had some senior players around it; we don't have those senior players around this team any more. This team needed to be shown direction and it got a pretty clear message of that before this Test match."
"We've got to understand where we're at at the moment with a very young group of players that needs to be shown the right way to go. If you've got older, senior players the team governs itself and then it's easy just to run and coach. If you've got a young team you need to grab the team and really make the players understand what their responsibilities and ownerships are of the side."
Although Arthur is happy with the response from within the squad after the tumultuous past week, his hardline stance has brought him plenty of criticism from former players, fans and the media. In fact, the online abuse became so bad that Arthur decided on Tuesday to delete his Twitter account.
"I think if you're on it you just open yourself up to that [abuse]," he said. "There has been some very positive stuff as well, but it's not worth it. I've got bigger things to worry about than Twitter to be honest."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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