Chris Barrett: No more Mr Nice Guy: CA brass finds fall guy

The Fleet Street press, jaws dropping immediately to the floor as they woke on Monday, will hardly have believed the news that was before them. Coach sacked, captain quits as a selector; only 15 days remain until the first ball of the Ashes is bowled and already Australia, holed up in their hotel in Bristol, are imploding. Cue red-top delight: They're Taking the Mickey!

The dumping of Mickey Arthur was stunning and unprecedented in its timing, with the South African made the scapegoat for a deteriorating team culture that, on the brink of the series in England, had become divided, rudderless and careering out of control.

It did not need Michael Clarke's resignation from the selection panel, revealed only hours later, for it to be a momentous day in Australian cricket.

Yet while Arthur's sacking was a genuine bombshell, the captain's relinquishing of his additional duties was arguably the more significant development of the day.

It has taken Clarke and the rest of the Cricket Australia hierarchy more than two years to realise what others have been telling them all along; that it is not a good idea to have a team member choosing the team.

The distrust this dynamic breeds has contributed to the factions, cliques and tension that gradually developed in the team, and the widening gap between players and management that led to Arthur's dismissal.

Clarke, since his appointment in 2011, has been the most powerful Australian captain in recent history but that came at a price: how could players confide in him about their vulnerabilities when he could then scratch their name from the scoresheet?

The tentacles of power stretched so far that it was even strongly rumoured that players at the Melbourne Stars Big Bash franchise were desperate in the past two seasons to get onside with Shane Warne, thinking his close friendship with Clarke could help them in selection.

It should not have taken until this close to the Ashes for Australia to remedy this situation but at least it has happened.

While Clarke's job has lost some of its lustre, Arthur has simply lost his, the fall guy for the whole mess. He should not own all the blame, though, far from it. Clarke, for starters, has not yet established himself as a leader of men to match his brilliant qualities on the ground, and high performance chief Pat Howard, national selector John Inverarity and indeed chief executive James Sutherland himself must accept responsibility. The players, too, must shoulder some of the burden. In many ways they have let their coach down.

Arthur, a thoroughly decent and intelligent man sometimes even regarded as ''too nice'', was the easy one to remove, though. Those in charge - Sutherland, the board, Howard - believe Arthur had 18 months to deal with the myriad internal issues, relating to disharmony and discipline, dogging this Australian team and he was not able to do it successfully.

The tipping point was the CA hierarchy's view on how Arthur handled the aftermath to the nightclub incident in Birmingham in which David Warner took a swing at England's Joe Root in the early hours of a morning.

Sutherland was not only furious at Warner's actions, and at half a dozen players being in a pub at 2.30am, but also at the delay it took for him to be informed of the incident.

There was further anger from CA headquarters at an interview Arthur conducted last week in England in which he said the England and Wales Cricket Board had schemed behind the scenes to take full advantage of the Warner-Root stoush.

Sutherland is understood to have told Arthur and others in the management set-up, including travelling team manager Gavin Dovey, Warner's punch was absolutely unacceptable no matter the circumstances, and was very unhappy that the coach was seen to be downplaying the ugly bar-room affair.

Arthur's sacking, though, had its roots back in March, when he put his stamp on the axing of four players in India, including the then vice-captain Shane Watson, in the so-called ''homework'' saga. That action, taken by the coach in an effort to arrest sliding team discipline, was courageous but ended up backfiring on two counts. Not only did Australia's off-field drama continue - Warner's troubles on Twitter and in the Birmingham Walkabout being the obvious example - but Arthur permanently lost support from some of the players.

Unfortunately, the nice guy has finished last.

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