Shocked by the margin of Australia's ODI series defeat to England, the coach Mickey Arthur has challenged the tourists to stand up to the bullying they have received so far in the final match at Old Trafford on Tuesday. In a stinging assessment of the one-day side, Arthur said there had been "something missing" for Australia in the 50-over format since he took over as coach last November, and stated the team had been too submissive in allowing England to sail to a decisive 3-0 series lead - inflicting the first loss of the captain Michael Clarke's 15 months in charge - for the cost of just 11 wickets.
Arthur gave the touring team a stern post-match address following the eight-wicket hiding suffered at Chester-le-Street, and followed it up by airing his concerns in public. While he did not question his players' work-rate or desire to succeed, he was worried about the vast gap that had emerged between training displays and what they were then capable of in the middle. Arthur was at a loss to explain why the ODI team had battled over a period in which the Test side has gathered strength.
"I think our Test team is really good, it's really settled, it's got that hard edge. The Twenty20 team, we haven't really had that much time together, but the one-day team there's just that something missing," Arthur said. "I've said it all through our home summer, there's just something missing. I'm not sure what it is. Is it character, is it ambition? I'm not sure - there's just something clearly missing. I've challenged the players, I'll always be honest and I'll say it how it is. I'm really looking for a response.
"I want to see a bit of mongrel come Tuesday, I really do. I think we've been a bit submissive this whole series. We've allowed [ourselves] to be bullied, and we're better than that. I don't think we've had a presence this series. I'm talking absolute presence when batters are out there, like the presence our Test team had against India - when we walked on that field there was body language, we were strong, we were decisive, there was that presence.
"But we haven't had that presence in our one-day side. We didn't really get that presence in our one-day side through the international summer at home as well, and that's something we've been fiddling with, trying to get. We just don't seem to have the answers at the moment."
Since losing despite having the better of the conditions in the series opener at Lord's, Australia have laboured under the weight of their own expectations. With each match the margin of defeat has only grown, making many of the tourists' pre-series boasts look empty in the extreme. The most pointed of these was the prediction that England's batting was on the thin side due to the selection of five bowlers. Having highlighted Tim Bresnan's presence at No. 7 as a possible weakness, the tourists are yet to bowl at him.
"We're looking for the guy who's going to take responsibility and say 'I'm the champ', I want to change the momentum. We seem to be a little bit submissive" Mickey Arthur
"When we won the toss in favourable conditions at Lord's, I thought we bowled well. I'm certainly not having a go at any of the bowlers. I thought we bowled well," Arthur said. "England just seemed to find a way though, you looked at the scoreboard and they were 0 for 60, it was bizarre. We felt as though we'd beaten the bat and were well on top, but you looked at the scoreboard and they were 0 for 60 in about the 18th over.
"I guess in both disciplines we haven't found that way, and that's disappointing and worrying me a bit to be honest. I'm searching, I'm looking for those answers, I'm looking for that mongrel, looking for that guy who's going to stand up and change the game. We're looking for the guy who's going to take responsibility and say 'I'm the champ', I want to change momentum in a game. We seem to be a little bit submissive - we haven't stood up and we haven't grasped an opportunity like England have.
"We've spoken at length that if we can get them three down we're towards Craig Kieswetter then we're into Bresnan. Well, we've seen Kieswetter bat once at Lord's and we haven't seen Bresnan bat yet. And yet our batters, who are world class, seem to be getting out and put under the pump. Again, hats off to England, they're outstanding, but they're only doing the basics well. Cricket's about basics - we've got to do the basics better, we've got to be nailing those basics. I want to see them nail the basics like we do in training. We don't do it in the middle, and that's my worry, that's what I'm looking for."
A fourth defeat at Old Trafford would all but guarantee Australia's loss of the world No. 1 ranking in the ODI format to the winner of the subsequent series between England and South Africa. The ceding of top spot would confirm the slide of the one-day team from the group of solid practitioners who held on to top spot through the years of decline experienced by the Test side, to the muddled team swept away by England in this series.
"We're a changing team as world No.1, and I'm not having a character assassination of our team at all," Arthur said. "I'm looking for answers that are going to strengthen our team and lift our team again. It's certainly not a character assassination of them. I know those guys are bursting a gut to go out and do well. For us as management it's about finding that balance between their talent and performance, but somehow they are just not transforming that. That is what is perplexing me."