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