Calcutta: Australia head coach Mickey Arthur has admitted that he has put his “neck on the line” with the shake-up that led to four players being controversially suspended for the Mohali Test.
The 44-year-old South African has borne the brunt of criticism for the unprecedented move to suspend vice-captain Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja from the third Test, which India won by six wickets on Monday.
On Tuesday Arthur announced he was shutting down his Twitter account, on which he had more than 33,000 followers, following a torrent of abuse during the series but the coach doesn’t repent making such a firm statement on arresting what the team management identified as sliding attitudes in the squad.
“I’ve never been one just to sit back and let things drift,” Arthur told the Australian media.
“If I’m doing that, I’m not doing my job. I’m empowered to coach this team, to run this team and get this team back to where it needs to be. We’ve got to understand where we’re at, at the moment, with a very young group of players that needs to be shown the right way to go. If you’ve got older senior players the team governs itself and then it’s easy just to run and coach.
“If you’ve got a young team you need to grab the team and really make the players understand what their responsibilities and ownerships are of the side.
“I would say I’ve put my neck on the line. But I’ve put my neck on the line because I’m really passionate about Australian cricket and I’m very passionate about this team.”
Arthur signed an initial three-and-a-half year contract when he joined as head coach in November 2011. He was the first foreigner to coach Australia but is close to securing permanent residency. The tumultuous campaign has led to suggestions, led by former coach John Buchanan, that it will be Arthur who pays with his job if Australia cannot turn around its woes outside India.
Arthur said the players, including those suspended, had responded well since the turmoil of last week and he is “comfortable” with where he stands.
“I want this team to achieve ultimate success and that’s to get to No.1 in the world,” Arthur said. “It was needed. It had to happen and the responses have been fantastic.”
Arthur has said the selectors would welcome Michael Hussey back if he decided to make a return for this year’s Ashes series, given the lack of experience in the Test squad. However, Arthur said he was confident that in time the younger members of Australia’s team would be capable of filling the vacuum left by the retirements of Hussey and Ricky Ponting.
A Hussey comeback appears unlikely given his decision to retire was made largely due to his desire to spend more time at home with his young family, and the Ashes tour would require him to be away for two and a half months. Given that Hussey has remained a solid run-getter in the Sheffield Shield, Arthur said the door would be open if he wanted to return.
“We’d certainly listen to Mike Hussey if Mike Hussey came knocking at our door,” Arthur said. “But that’s a hypothetical at the moment. He’s retired. We’ve moved on now, you know. Yeah we miss him. We miss the aura of Ricky Ponting. But I’m hoping that these younger players will take over that mantle in time to come. They’re nowhere near ready yet.
“But in time to come they’ve got to step up and take on those mantles because they’re going to be the role models for the next generation of cricketers. I’m confident we’ve got the best players here. These guys just need to be given that confidence and just need to stand up. I’m pretty sure they will.”