Australia's vice-captain Brad Haddin has delivered a stinging critique of the Mickey Arthur era, saying the former coach was "very, very insecure" during his time in the job and contributed to the suffocating team atmosphere that culminated in the suspension of four players in India and his eventual sacking.
Haddin will play his 50th Test at the Gabba at the start of the Ashes series, and said the national team had now returned to firmer ground under the mentoring of Darren Lehmann, who replaced Arthur before the previous encounter with England during the northern summer. In contrast to the relaxed yet focused atmosphere he sees now, Haddin said that under Arthur the team lost track of the brand of cricket required to win.
"I think with Darren coming in, the message he's got across, the brand of cricket that we want to play, and I think you guys understand the brand that Australian cricket wanted to play and what we have forever and a day, I think that got lost in the period that Mickey had a hold of us," Haddin said. "I don't think he understood and was secure enough in himself to get us to where we needed to go, and it's actually been refreshing coming into a campaign, smiles on guys' faces enjoying the game for what it is, a great game of cricket.
"I think what Boof (Lehmann) does is he understands the game and he encourages guys to talk about the game and the bottom line is it's a game of cricket. He's a very well-respected person in cricket circles and he's a good person. The one thing he gives the group that Mickey didn't, he was very, very insecure and that came across in a lot of our selections and our play I think to be perfectly honest. Under Darren we've got a clear message of where we want to go and how we're going to get there. He's able to help guys on the way to get to that point."
Haddin's time behind the stumps for the Test team was interrupted when he flew home from the West Indies in early 2012 to be with his seriously ill daughter Mia, a period of personal struggle that allowed Matthew Wade to take his place. However Wade's injury after the second Test of the series in India had Haddin flying to the subcontinent, where he was taken aback by the scene he encountered.
"That wasn't the Australian cricket team that I knew when I flew into Mohali," Haddin said. "That was a unique situation which in all seriousness I can't really explain it. It was uncomfortable, walking into it. Guys jumping at shadows and the insecurity around everything that was being done, so just refreshing to get back here now and enjoy the game for what it is, a great game and been great for all of us."
Reinstated as the No. 1 wicketkeeper for the England tour, Haddin went within 15 runs of a stealing a memorable victory in the first Test at Trent Bridge, before claiming a world record for dismissals in a Test series. He said the team was now looking towards the Brisbane Test with plenty of resolve, having failed to nail the critical moments in the earlier battles.
"I feel things feel a lot more settled going into this campaign than the last," Haddin said. "I think we started to play the cricket we wanted at the back end of the last Ashes. I think the result was a fair indication of where everything was at. We had moments in that series where we didn't quite grab hold of and England deserved to be 3-0 up. So we've gone away and looked at things we need to improve and it's no secret we need to win those big moments so we're more settled with where we're at and where we're trying to go."