Australia in India 2012-13 March 11, 2013

A lesson for the Australian cricketer

Yes, the punishment was harsh, but it is time Australia's players took some responsibility

Put yourself in the position of an Australian cricketer. You have just been part of an embarrassing loss. Humiliating. The tenth-biggest defeat in Australian cricket history. You are gutted, the fans are disgusted. On-field, the judgement shown by players has been poor. Poor shot selection, poor bowling, a poor attitude. The match finishes inside three and a half days. Nobody is happy. Plans have been made and have failed, or have just not been followed.

On the night the match ends, the coach tells you and every other player to go away and think about why things have gone wrong. To consider where you and the team have failed on this tour. To use your own brain instead of having someone else think for you. He asks you to come up with three ideas for how you and the squad can improve. It doesn't matter if you played the first two Tests or not. It doesn't matter if you've made a hundred or taken a five-for. This is about more than just you.

He gives you four days to come back to him. You don't have to write an essay. Bullet points would do. Everyone can manage three bullet points. Or go see the coach and talk through your thoughts in person. Meanwhile, you train on what should have been day five of the Test and travel the next day. You have hours of downtime in airport lounges and on planes. Maybe you listen to music, maybe you watch some movies. Do you think about that embarrassing loss? Do you think about how to improve? The fans are thinking about it. So are the coaches. Are you?

Then you have two days off in Chandigarh. The coach wants you to freshen up. That means no training, it doesn't mean no thinking. That has been made clear to you. Maybe you play golf, maybe you go to the zoo, maybe you take a little trip out of town. Maybe Saturday night comes around and you haven't got back to the coach. But guess what, 12 of your team-mates have. They've been thinking about how the group can improve. Have you?

Perhaps you have no ideas. Then why not come to the coach and tell him that? You're back at training on Sunday. If you haven't been thinking about cricket over the past few days, you damn well should be now. Maybe you just forgot. But if you forgot, how switched on are you? This is the only thing you've had to do and you haven't done it. Where is your head at? Not in the space it needs to be in to play a Test, clearly.

The captain spent his time off making the long trip to the Taj Mahal. You're on good money but he is earning enormous seven-figure amounts. He's also the only batsman who has looked much good on this trip. He's scored a quarter of the team's runs. Like everyone else, he was asked by the coach to complete this one task, even though he has been carrying you. He has done it. Why haven't you?

Mark Waugh says this is not schoolboy stuff. It's not Under-6s, he says. That's right, you're a grown man with your own brain and you get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, at least, to play this game. You're a professional. So why haven't you acted like one?

Monday morning rolls around. The next Test is now only 72 hours away. You've been given a day's grace but have still not done what was asked. Think you're exempt? Think the coach will let it go? He's always smiling, he must be a pushover. After all, other lapses have been allowed to slide on this trip, hell, even before it. They might have been yours, they might not. But within the team there have been lapses. That's the problem. This is the final straw, and you've dropped it on top of the others.

You're out of the team. You won't be considered for the next Test. Nor will three others who failed to complete this one small request. In other weeks, perhaps other players might also have neglected such a task. But this was an embarrassing week for Australian cricket and you couldn't slack off. You've let your team-mates down. Is it a harsh punishment? Definitely. But will you learn from this mistake? You'd better believe it. If you don't, you never will. And then what good are you to the Australian team?

This, the coach said, was the buy-in moment. The time when every player had to commit to the team's methodical philosophy. To the aim of regaining the No. 1 Test ranking. Most of the players have bought in but you haven't. Oh, you still can. But the price has risen since Saturday. If you want to buy in now it's going to cost you a Test match on the sidelines.

You see messages of support from back home. On Twitter, past players are angry. Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Tom Moody. This is not how things were done in the old days. Filling in forms? Writing notes? What's wrong with sorting it all out over a drink in the bar or a feisty team meeting?

Mark Waugh says this is not schoolboy stuff. It's not Under-6s, he says. That's right, you're a grown man with your own brain and you get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, at least, to play this game. You're a professional. So why haven't you acted like one? This is not 1993, it's 2013. This is the modern, ultra-professional era. With big salaries and contracts come responsibilities.

Perhaps you're already learning. Every day you're supposed to fill in wellness reports to allow the fitness and medical staff to assess your health and help work out your training regime. Every day, a few players forget, or just can't be bothered. After the events of this morning, after you let the team down, everyone is on notice. For the first time, every single player submits their report.

Yes, for now it feels like a crisis point for Australian cricket. But a synonym for "crisis point" is "turning point". And if you all buy in to the wider team ethos, there is no reason this should not be a significant turning point for the team under this coach and captain.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on March 13, 2013, 9:01 GMT

    @Doogius on (March 12, 2013, 5:56 GMT) - regardless of sore eyeballs, the Wellness Test is a process borrowed from the ALL BLACKS, who are a benchmark for International sports. The reality is that Oz have a serious injury problem, lots of man-hours are being devoted to being able to keep the players on the paddock. to not fill out the report is sabotage! BTW - re: Siddle, he claimed the decision not to play the Perth Test was his. The point about the Wellness Test is that SOME of the players hadn't been filling it out - I then suggested that maybe they don't think they have to? The Warne comparison (IMO) - is not a good one, as he had been stood down from playing for Oz on occasions. Also regarding Warne, the Oz side had a different culture & could aford to indulge a few excesses, this team cannot. I would argue the reason why we have "management" is that there are so FEW Leaders in the team - that even Warner is considered a leader. No Kallis's or Sachin 150 gamers here!

  • Balaji on March 13, 2013, 1:20 GMT

    If the punishment was just for missing this homework it was too harsh. However, if these things have been brewing for a long time, I do not know. That said, the team management could have waited for end of tour to do this. To gut the team this way in the middle of the tour does not look good. This puts a lot of questions on the man management, considering the way temperamental people like Katich and Symonds were handled. One also needs to look at the way Hussey, arguably the ultimate team man, left.

  • Dummy4 on March 13, 2013, 1:03 GMT

    It is a simple case of creating a smoke screen so that both the Captain and the Coach are not the focus. When things were going well against WI or SL, did the same coach or the captain ever asked for any input from any of these players? Especially from those who were not even part of the playing eleven. What is Khawaja going to say when he was not even considered good enough to play and was overlooked? The bottom line is this that the team composition was not right for the second test. Lyon, Starc and Khawaja should have been in the playing eleven. That did not happen and the whole team selection backfired. Now the team management is just looking to divert attention by creating this whole circus. Punishment just doesn't add up.

  • vijay on March 12, 2013, 18:00 GMT

    I would have agreed with the author if I were at school.. but I dont and none of the OZ players. You can write a long essay about missing one dumb task. Give a try to do the same describing how talented they arnd the hard work they did to play at this level and above all the disappointment in not doing well. Any sports person even at the school level doesnt like losing and they are pros. Just agree that there will be bad days with a young team and get over it

  • Mashuq on March 12, 2013, 16:02 GMT

    The best article on this issue that I've read so far. Still, I don't think the issues were properly dealt with punishmentwise. If you lack communication skills as a coach and captain, you're the wrong person for the job. I think they are both over sensitive to the justified criticism of the team and in trying to hold everyone accountable they have succeeded in diverting attention away from the structural weaknesses in the squad selected. Spot on @ScottStevo on (March 12, 2013, 13:49 GMT). @bipulkumar on (March 12, 2013, 4:22 GMT) Good point :The punishment was needed but it was poorly timed and managed.

  • Dummy4 on March 12, 2013, 15:40 GMT

    Wow great to see so many disciplinarians in the room, so what is discipline anyway is it complete the given task even if you don't like it or want to do it ? The task given to them is very very simple, they could have even text it to coach, not just email or presentation but they didn't comply don't you guys feels some fishy in here. Don't you think this could have been discussed in an hour in a conference room with all the players and support staff, why give them 5 days time to send 3 points, this is very absurd and the coach literally wasted 5 days to get opinions from the players, why the coach wants everything in black and white? The captain mentions the straw that broke the camel back, while coach says it is line in the sand moment. The guys who agree with the coach and captain are living in rock ages, you can't discipline people by giving harsh punishment, this was done by the coach and captain to show who is the boss and if you wanna stay in the team you have to please me first

  • ali on March 12, 2013, 15:03 GMT

    Very flawed and based on contradictory arguments. If plays are to be ultra professionals then how does this apply to coaches? If a player doesn't perform he is fumed based on the premise that if he is not performing there is no point of paying him then what about Mr Coach. Players are paid for on field performance and for the items enlisted for conduct off the field which are in black and white; not on some capricious demands of some fools who don't know how to do their jobs. Which contract or binding document really enlisted that if a player doesn't give three points will not be considered for next match. And what about motivation which is also part of modern cop orate cultus. Absolute failure on the part of coaches and leadership team and just trying to distract everyone from real issues or they are hiding something.

  • Anthony on March 12, 2013, 14:48 GMT

    Will "presentation scores" appear alongside Australian players bowling and batting averages in the next test?:

    "PJ Hughes: Tests: 21. Inns: 41. Avg: 33.25. Essay score: 78%."

  • John on March 12, 2013, 13:52 GMT

    @igthorn I really hope you are indulging in some quiet sarcasm when you suggest that Waugh, Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist, Hayden, et al were letting others do their cricket thinking for them. If you are I would suggest following the career paths of such coaching luminaries as John Buchanan to see just how successful he has been without a team stuffed to the gills with outstanding talent. It doesn't take a genius to say 'pitch the ball up on or about off stump, look for swing or seam' but it does take a bit of genius to bowl 20 consecutive leg cutters at pace on or about off stump on a dead wicket then with no change of action bowl a perfect off cutter.