By Amyn Malik
The news of axing of four Australian players — Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson and Usman Khawaja — for the third Test match in Mohali came as a shock to many, judging by the reactions of the former players and media alike. However, Australian cricket is known for its ruthlessness and no-nonsense attitude.
At first, it seemed like a harsh punishment. The only thing these four players were guilty of was not submitting something akin to a half page review — of how the team could improve — in the stipulated time frame to the team coach. It may seem all the more surprising as Australia needs all the players it has after two demoralising defeats; one of the four is the vice-captain and was speculated to bat at No 3 in the third Test, another was to be drafted into the team after poor performances of other batsmen, the third has been their best bowler on the tour and the fourth has a great record on the ground for the match.
Astonishing disciplinary action, isn’t it? If you are looking to win the match and keep the series alive you need these people in the team. This decision has also led Watson to leave the tour and reconsider his future in Tests.
The decision to drop him from the game was incommensurate with the crime, he said. To hell with diplomacy.
Former players minced no words to deplore the move.
Former Australia captain Allan Border stated, “I’m surprised that’s the penalty for something so mundane. It seems like it was on a schoolboy tour or something. It’s an over-the-top reaction.”
Mark Waugh also spoke strongly against the decision, “I’m stunned. I’ve never heard of this sort of thing before at top level in any sport. When you are losing there are niggling things there, but they’re grown men, it’s not schoolboy stuff. It’s not under-6s, this is Test cricket… there would have been a better way.”
Other testimonies were just as damning. But what everyone has missed is the importance of discipline.
When the captain and the seniormost player could hand in his so called ‘homework’, so could these four.
They are not above the team and should not be treated as special. It may seem that the other transgressions like not turning in the wellness forms every day during the tour have been ignored and these four, who might have been exemplary in other respects, were dealt with harshly.
That may be true but a message had to be sent; harsh punishments. Discipline needed to be restored, especially after two defeats of such magnitude. The danger of letting this slip would have the effect of a lax attitude on the remaining squad members.
The authority of the coach (and also that of the captain and manager) would have eroded with every member deeming any exercises that the coach lists as optional. That would have affected the team performance even further.
Yes, cricket is not about ‘PowerPoint’ and ‘report writing’ — it is about on field performances. But, the coach is there to improve those on field performances and take the blame for the lack of them and to do that he needs the authority.
This incident, if taken lightly, had the potential to undermine that authority, a possibility that the Australians have made clear is not acceptable.
A statement has been made.
If you want to have the honour of representing your country, you need to show professionalism. Freeloaders and undisciplined individuals will not be tolerated.
Could this statement be have made in a different way with less severe punishments?
But, the question that is on my mind: Could this have happened in Indian or Pakistani teams?
(Dr Amyn Malik is a research associate of Interactive Research & Development and an AKU graduate from the class of 2010.The above article is reproduced with permission from www. http://tribune.com.pk/)
Also on cricketcountry.com