Shock therapy

Cricket is no stranger to controversies and they seem to crop up much more when a team is under-performing or is under great stress. Axing of four Australian players, including vice-captain Shane Watson, from the team for the third Test against India starting in Mohali on Friday, certainly has more to it than meets the eye.

It’s just not about disciplining four ‘disobedient’ players for failing to follow the team management’s orders. On the face of it, the Errant Four -- Watson, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson and Usman Khawaja -- have been punished for not furnishing a three-point report on how to improve the team’s performance in India as directed by coach Mickey Arthur. But skipper Michael Clarke later indicated that there were other off-field issues too, forcing the team management to take the drastic step at a time when the team was going through absolute horrors, losing the first two Tests by massive margins.

This is certainly not the first time that an Australian team had to deal with in-fighting. There were many instances in the recent past when players such as Clarke himself, Simon Katich, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist and Michael Slater were found at loggerheads with management, to put it politely, but those fights largely remained within the four walls of the dressing room or were talked over during a lengthy fishing session or two. So, why was it that no effort was made to find a more amicable solution this time? The answer is quite simple -- Australia are struggling to find their way back to the top after the retirement of some legendary names and the management perhaps wanted to send out a message that it would not tolerate wayward behaviour from players.

This episode also raises questions about taking such harsh steps when the team is already low on morale after heavy defeats at Chennai and Hyderabad. Even taking into account the bluntness that is ingrained in the Australian culture, it appears an extreme move that can further disrupt the team environment by pushing the players into a state of insecurity. On the flip side of the coin, it is possible that the step could well have come at the right time to give a fillip to their sagging campaign. Answers will be found in the remaining matches at Mohali and Delhi.

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