Mickey Arthur, the coach of Australia, has outlined some of the discipline issues that had built up over the course of the tour of India, including late attendance for team meetings, back-chat and high skinfolds (tests to estimate body fat). These were among the infractions from the wider squad that led to four players being stood down for the third Test in Mohali due to their failure to complete a task in which Arthur asked every player to give ideas for individual and team improvement.
When Arthur made the announcement on Monday that Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson would not be part of the third Test due to neglecting the task, he alluded to a build-up of other behavioural issues but did not go into details. However, on the eve of the Mohali Test, Arthur has confirmed what some of the problems were, which were not specific to the four players suspended.
"It has been a culmination of lots of minor indiscretions that have built up to now," Arthur wrote in his Cricket Australia blog. "Some people may ask why it was left to get to this point, such an 'extreme measure'. We have given lots of latitude and flexibility with a young and inexperienced squad. We know it's going to take time for them to grow and mature, but there is only so long the leadership group can hold their hand.
"This decision was about sending out a strong message that it is about time all players had some accountability for their actions. Being late for a meeting, high skinfolds, wearing the wrong attire, back-chat or giving attitude are just some examples of these behavioural issues that have been addressed discretely but continue to happen. If we're deadly serious about getting back to number one in the world, all players need to raise the bar and lift their game.
"If not, we must be content at being number three or four or five in world cricket because we won't get any better. The players won't learn and we'll continue a vicious cycle. It is a strong message to everyone in Australian cricket that if you want to play for the Australian cricket team, then we demand excellence, and corner-cutting, taking short-cuts or arriving with a bad attitude will no longer be tolerated."
Arthur, the captain Michael Clarke and the team manager Gavin Dovey were collectively responsible for the decision to leave the four players out of the third Test, which could leave Australia with as few as 12 men available for the game, which starts on Thursday. Cricket Australia's chairman, Wally Edwards, said the board was "completely supportive" of the decision taken by the Australian team management, although it has created plenty of debate from the cricket public.
"When we sat down as a leadership group and made these tough decisions I knew it would polarise public opinion, but internally I certainly know we've made the absolute right decision," Arthur said. "The last week and a half since the end of the Hyderabad Test has been the toughest in my 11 years of coaching."