Pakistan v Australia 2012 August 21, 2012

Stern Clarke pushes for harder team culture


A year after the Argus review delivered a damning indictment of Australian cricket's culture, the national captain Michael Clarke has delivered a stern reminder that much still needed to improve if the team are to rise above what he called an "unacceptable" present.

Before departing for an ODI tour of the UAE that will take in matches against Afghanistan and Pakistan, Clarke outlined how he and the coach Mickey Arthur had stressed at the team's Darwin camp that representing Australia is no laughing matter, requiring harder work and higher standards than anything at first-class level.

Their message was supported by the embarrassing mid-year tour of England, which saw the ODI team routed 4-0 to surrender top spot in the ICC rankings. With an increasingly youthful, changing team around him, Clarke is adamant that the players with whom he shares a dressing room take responsibility for their roles and acknowledge that, while talent may have lifted them into the Australian team, hard work alone will keep them there.

"The most important thing for Mickey and myself is to continue to build the culture we want," Clarke said in Sydney. "For me the reason I sit where I am today is because of hard work; preparation and hard work are the only two answers for me to be representing Australia, and that's something that I will continue to push with the young Aussie boys who haven't played too much cricket around us.

"There is a difference between first-class cricket and playing for Australia. Yes, you have to be very talented to be playing for your state, and to get selected for Australia, but the amount of cricket you play these days, the amount you travel, there's a lot of difference.

"The most important thing is the culture. We want to make sure we've got the right culture, which we've been working on really hard since Mickey's come in, and I think we're certainly getting there...hard work and preparation is something I'll continue to push."

Clarke spoke frankly that all players had to deliver far more with actions than words, after several players' pre-series pronouncements were made to look decidedly hollow when the tourists were completely outplayed by an England side who were themselves then beaten by South Africa to lose the top Test match ranking.

"The other thing I spoke about on the camp was it's actually not about what you say, it's about what we do as a team," Clarke said. "We've all sat in meetings and heard the coach or the captain have their opinions and say what they felt, but it's now up to us as individual players and a team to do something about it, to realise we sit fourth in the ODI rankings, third in the Test rankings and ninth in the Twenty20 rankings. Every player knows that's unacceptable for an Australian team to sit there, but that's easy to say - it's now about what we do.

"It's not about being selected and that's it, go and have a good time. There's a lot that comes with representing your country, on and off the field and it's just about making it very clear to all the boys that we all sit on the same line, there's no-one special in the team, everyone has the same rules, the same guidelines and the same expectations.

"I'm pretty sure all the players know where we sit now, we know how hard it's going to be, Darwin was a great indication of how hard we're going to have to work to get back to being the No. 1 team in all three forms - we've set a good standard."

These words echoed many of those contained in Don Argus' review of the Australian team's performance, released on August 19 last year. It was a frankly worded excoriation of a decline that followed the retirements of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist in the 12 months after the 2007 Ashes victory.

Australia's first match is against Afghanistan on Saturday, before three matches against Pakistan. Clarke expected spin to play a major role in the matches, a measure the touring party prepared for on slow, spinning wickets prepared to emulate those of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

"We've got a lot of work to do to get back to the No. 1 one day team in the world, where we'd all like to be," Clarke said. "We came up against a pretty good team in England in conditions they were used to, their confidence was pretty high as well after beating the West Indies. But it's no different against Pakistan, they know these conditions really well, I think spin's going to play a huge part in this series, both facing it and bowling it."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jeremy on August 24, 2012, 7:01 GMT

    @Hammond: Ian Chappell was a very good batsmen and one of the better captains in any era. Greg Chappell was a hugely talented batsmen - if he were born in the current era, he'd have a record every bit as good as Ponting. He was pure class and a joy to watch (especially when off-driving or cover-driving). As @Meety has already pointed out, sledging is a part of this game, and it always has been. One important thing you forget is that cricketers from the 80's and earlier used to live by the "what happens on the field stays on the field" mentality, and most would enjoy a beer together after the game. I too cringe at some of the antics from players in the past, but it is part & parcel of the game. If the umpires need to get involved, they do, and disciplinary action can be taken against players if it is warranted. Ultimately, the captain should intervene if he feels his players are getting carried away - players have emotions, they're not robots, we're way too critical/judgemental.

  • Andrew on August 24, 2012, 1:00 GMT

    @OzzyHammond - mate your knowledge of cricket is unbelievably shallow! Sledging in various formats has been in the game since Dr Grace! So bitter. you must of forgotten to pay the gas bill in your little 1 bedroom apartment in London! @Ahmed Hussain - good comments as usual. Sledging which I think is a term that encompasses a broad range of both acceptable & unacceptable practises. I think say the slip cordon openly discussing a batsmen's technical weaknesses is fine but abuse that could be prosecuted as verbal abuse is not.

  • Mathew on August 23, 2012, 18:40 GMT

    I actually look at the rankings and see a pretty fair reflection of where team lie. I think Aus are higher than 9th in 20/20 though. Cricket is a better place when there are no real for-gone conclusions. Every team on their day are capable. I would love to see NZ/Wi play better and sort out IPL issues. And of course Pak to sort its off feild non-sense.

  • Dummy4 on August 23, 2012, 15:54 GMT

    As for this series well ODI at least, Pakistan looks to me that they will win this at least 2-1 considering the sort of conditions they are playing at if not 3-0. Though Australia are a great side, they're clearly not the side they were back 5 or so years ago where they seemingly won everything but anyway best of luck to both teams at least for once this series means something because its been a while since we seen these two teams contest in a series.

  • Dummy4 on August 23, 2012, 15:50 GMT

    For those who are debating about sledging its perfectly fine because it makes the game and contest liven up and pumps up the players but if its something which goes way over the top which unfortunately can happen at times then it can lead to major problems not just on the field but off the field as well. Its all about maintaining your composure and rhythm and who's strong mentally.

  • richard on August 23, 2012, 9:08 GMT

    yes Hammond, as we say in Australia those figures are bog average, I am happy we are third in the world in tests, but i am not so sure thats a good thing for world cricket or a blight on the rankings system. as for T20 who cares.

  • Geoffrey on August 23, 2012, 8:15 GMT

    @Meety- sledging is shamefully the Australian cricket legacy. Before Ian & Greg none of the teams in world cricket sledged. If NZ are good at sledging then you can be sure as anything that they learnt from the best.

  • Dummy4 on August 23, 2012, 7:44 GMT

    I think they should take each game directly in front of them and set out to win it. They look too far ahead to the Ashes all the time. South Africa is coming to Australia this season. If Australia are too arrogant and just assume they will be number 1 by looking too far ahead, they are gonna get smashed

  • Andrew on August 23, 2012, 1:36 GMT

    @dalboy12 - funny you mention sledging, as the Black Caps are amongst the biggest sledgers in Test cricket! Post Hadlee, I don't enjoy beating your mob, I loathe a loss (ala Hobart), but I almost always go for the Kiwis when not in direct competition with an Ozzy person or team!

  • Dale on August 22, 2012, 23:20 GMT

    I'm a kiwi, which means i generally will say nothing nice about Australia and one of the great joys of my life is watching their cricket team lose. Although that Glen McGrath has left with all sledging etc that use to come with him losing, its not so much fun any more. But even as a kiwi --- I have to face that Australia in cricket is what the All Blacks are to rugby. They have so much depth ---- and it won't be very long before they are playing for the top positions again. They will have short re-building phrases but just the depth of players, the ideal cricket conditions and the status of the game in Aussie mean they will always around the top. There will be some interesting clashes coming up though between England, SA and Aussie not to mention Pakistan and India as they also rebuild. As for as poor old Kiwis until we get some batsman who can score 100s we will just be a dangerous t20 n ODI team that pulls off the occasional big win in test cricket.

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