Taking the mickey out of Australian cricket

But that’s not cricket, I thought, when I first heard the news that the coach of the Australian Cricket team, backed by the captain and manager, had suspended four Test players in India, including vice-captain, Shane Watson, for not doing their homework.
Well, okay, it was cricket, in a sense, since the sport has always been a bit fuddy-duddy, full of rules, some outdated, and a national hero, Sir Don Bradman, who was so straight, if he asked you to do some homework, you would have done it again and again, until you got it right.
And yes, another qualification, it wasn’t really homework, but feedback. The coach asked all the players to tell them what they could do to help win the next two Tests, via email or in person. All replied except for the Forgetful Four, and for the coach it was the last straw.
Coach Mickey Arthur (pictured above) wrote in his blog on the Cricket Australia website, it was the team culture he was trying to fix: “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.” http://bit.ly/Y8YJ9w
Now if Mickey meant to say he addressed the issues “discretely,” meaning separately, well that is the correct spelling of the word. However, if he meant “discreetly,” meaning prudently, well, that is the correct spelling, and it is also the right way to handle behavioural issues. If the players respected the coach, they would have done the homework. It’s a tried but true management dictum, “praise in public, criticise in private.” Has Mickey Arthur always followed this good advice? I don’t know, but I have a feeling he was doing something wrong. The players have admitted they were doing something wrong, even Shane Watson as he arrived back in Australia. If Mickey Arthur, Michael Clarke and team manager Gavin Dovey really wanted feedback, they should have told them at the time: “If you don’t do what we ask, there will be sanctions.” Or perhaps, just perhaps, the coach, captain and manager wanted to make examples of the players who didn’t comply with the request? I’ll let you decide that one!
But again, if the team managers really wanted feedback, they could have reinforced the message in private. The players would have realised they were serious, and they would have done it. Read some of the comments made below Mickey Arthur’s blog which criticise him because it “happened on his watch,” and “these are men, not schoolboys,” in response to his chiding the players for wearing the wrong clothes, back chat and giving attitude. A bad law, or silly rules, deserve to be questioned.
I remember when I was sacked from my high school baseball team in Philadelphia. The coach was pitching batting practice, and I was catching behind the plate. He threw a curve than nearly hit the batter, and he said, in his defence, “Dizzy Dean,” referring to a famous Major League pitcher, a colourful character who often did strange things on the baseball field. I said without thinking: “You’re dizzy, all right.” He immediately said: “You’re out of the team, get your gear and clear out.” I apologised and said I was only joking, but he wouldn’t listen. I was used to being the class clown and being able to shout the punch line quickly was part of my repertoire. I felt bad for quite a long time afterward. But in fact the coach was dizzy and a terrible leader. He resigned from the team halfway through the season, and my former girlfriend became the coach. I kid you not. She started the season as a spectator (and later became a nun, but that’s another story). My mates on the team told me I got out at the right time, even if I had acted stupidly. I always meant to ask my friends Joe and Duke if there were any repercussions from the strange goings-on that season, but I moved out of the neighbourhood, taught school in New York and then migrated to Australia. I must ask my friend Bill McMackin, a long-time teacher at the school, now retired, if he ever heard anything about it!
Anyway, that true story was meant to illustrate that coaches must earn respect, and if they do, smart-aleck players might keep their mouths shut, and certainly do their homework. Respect is a two-way street. Maybe the Australian Test side just needs the Mickey taken out of it.
If I were Cricket Australia, I’d ask Ian Chappell to coach the team for a couple of years. A former Test captain, Chappelli loves Australia, and wouldn’t take any back chat from the players. But he would also listen to them and treat them fairly. Come on, Ian, put your job as Test Commentator at Nine on hold. Nine CEO David Gyngell and Head of Sport Steve Crawley would have you back in a New York minute, and it might give you a different perspective on cricket in the 21st Century.
There you are, Mickey, I’ve done my homework, and given you some feedback. Can I go home now?

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PS I am leaving this blog now, as I have to study the media reforms proposed by Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, which have just been tabled in Parliament. In the meantime, I’m loving the stoush between the government and News Limited, and I have to admit my heart belongs to Kim Williams, the CEO of News Limited, who gave a remarkable interview to David Speers on Sky News yesterday.
Mr Williams said the proposed laws were targeted at News Limited: “It’s punishment in search of a crime … it’s an obscenity … just white noise.” He went on to say it was “a travesty of a heinous kind … action of an extreme nature against free speech …” He even defended the Daily Telegraph’s front page (see above) which compared Stephen Conroy to Stalin, Robert Mugabe, Fidel Castro, Chairman Mao, Kim Jong-Il and Iranian President Ahmadinejad, as despots who also believe in controlling the press. Kim Williams told David Speers: “News Limited will use its publications to defend free speech. The point being made in the Daily Telegraph was perfectly clear. It said in despotic regimes, the public interest, as a phrase, is invoked for quite restrictive operations in terms of media and control of journalism. When you read down what has been proposed by the government, it is not dissimilar.”
You have to admire a CEO who can defend one of his papers so eloquently when it goes over the top. This is how you praise in public. Mickey Arthur, please note.

6 thoughts on “Taking the mickey out of Australian cricket

  1. Tom .. We had some great times and I have some memories that border on the unbelievable .. I honestly don’t remember the baseball coach .. But that is a great story !! Thanks for the mention .. I appreciate it …. Mack

  2. Tom – good piece.
    Can’t understand why they would institute corporate management practices for the Australian team – they’re playing CRICKET for god’s sake.
    Imagine the weasel words – ‘personal performance appraisals for the playing group going forward.’
    I was once asked to to fill out one of those personal performance forms so just ticked the all boxes marked Excellent.
    Vote 1 Chappelli – he’d even have them playing cricket.
    Cheers
    Steve

    • Thanks, Steve. Yes, I remember performance appraisals at Nine. Nothing ever came out of them. They really were a waste of time. You had an excellent way of treating your personal performance form. And glad you agree on Chappelli. Maybe I should start a petition (but I better check with him first!). Cheers.

  3. Hey Tommy, I’ve been working on Part 2 of Australian Story’s Ricky Ponting profile this week… Justin Langer says the players would have walked through brick walls for Ponting if he asked them to. Not sure Clarke has quite the same devotion from his team … yet.
    The show is definitely worth a watch even if you didn’t see last week’s Part 1. Oh, and yesterday Ponting hit his 80th First Class century (!) and he’s currently the top runscorer in the Sheffield Shield competition, which normally would mean he’s next in line for a place in the Test team…

    • Tim, I did see part one, and that was the message I got out of that part as well. Respect is earned and the best bosses I’ve worked for are those who treat everybody the same, listen to their staff, and communicate with them. They are willing to walk through brick walls for their workers, and the feeling is reciprocated. I don’t think Michael Clarke, Mickey Arthur or Gavin Dovey have reached that stage … yet (if ever in at least one case!). Look forward to watching part two of Australian Story and seeing your name on the credits. Cheers.

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