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July 16, 2013
Michael Clarke has not denied the existence of serious rifts within the team in the past but insists the tourists have put the problems of the Mickey Arthur era behind them under the guidance of the new coach Darren Lehmann. The revelation of Arthur's log of claims about his sacking broke as the tourists trained at Lord's two days out from the second Ashes Test, forcing hurried meetings about the team's official response.
Allegations of precisely how dimly Clarke viewed Shane Watson, and that the allrounder had been the one to inform Arthur of David Warner's misadventures, will not necessarily be a shock to members of the Australia team. Clarke stated that the squad was more united now than it had been for some time, which bodes well for the rest of the Ashes but also casts harsh light on the team under Arthur.
"I can't remember for a long time the team being as united as we are right now," Clarke said. "And no coincidence Darren's played a big part in that. I think him as a man and a gentleman brings that to the forefront. He was a great guy to play with, and he's no different as a coach. He loves having a good time, loves us enjoying our cricket and he was really proud, as I was, about the way we played over the past five days.
"The most important thing is that we as a team are as focused as we can be on Thursday. We've obviously got a huge game in front of us, the boys are feeling great. As we showed in the last Test match we're here to fight and do as well as we possibly can in this Test series. Nothing will get in the way of the team harmony at the moment. The feeling around the camp is magnificent. The feeling's what you want it to be around the Australian cricket team."
The timing of the documents' release has attracted the criticism of the Australian Cricketers' Association chief executive, Paul Marsh, and Clarke said he was doing his best to ensure the team remained entirely focused on Lord's, rather than the problems of the preceding six months.
"For me right now it is 'be focused on what's in front of me, not what's behind me'," Clarke said. "Decisions have been made and made for reasons. We've got a fantastic group with a great coach who has united us, and we're heading in the right direction. It makes no difference to me … my eyes are focused on one goal, and that's winning this Test match. I know everybody in that change-room's exactly the same. Boys have trained well today, come and train tomorrow."
Brad Haddin, the vice-captain, struck a similarly insistent tone about the health of the team. "We've been going in the right direction since day one of the tour," he said. "My stance hasn't changed. Disappointing result in first Test. Nice to get close but we want to win. I'm comfortable with where things are. Love to see a couple of guys names on the board and get a win here. Don't think that brought us tighter. The group has been fine since day one of the tour.
"Since I've been back everything has been fine. Day one was exciting and that hasn't changed. DL has done a wonderful job like all staff and players. Ashes is as good as it gets. All the other stuff is white noise. It hasn't affected the side. Darren Lehmann is the coach of Australia. That won't change. We're here to play an Ashes campaign, and our job is to get on with this."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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