The many perspectives on Homeworkgate make for interesting reading. The affair has polarised cricket fans, though all seem to agree on one thing. Australian cricket is in serious trouble. That such an extreme reaction was taken to the problem (and what exactly the problem was has been part of the controversy) shows that either there are deep issues in Australian cricket, or they are led by lunatics. Possibly both.
Early in the piece, cricketing opinion appeared to side with the axed players. The Teesra put together a witty infographic outlining how the actions of Arthur and Clarke will weaken Australia on this tour, especially in terms of the image of disunity it presents. King Cricket took their usual editorial position, that is to mock Australian cricket wherever possible. Why should the players have been axed for not doing a simple, and seemingly over-simplistic homework task? Were they children? (As King Cricket has later argued, yes, yes they are.) Haigh on a Cricket with Balls podcast described it as a ‘hit’ on Watson, an extreme reaction to a minor issue, used for the political ends of Captain Clarke and Coach Arthur.
There is clearly more to the story than a simple punishment for not doing homework, as it originally seemed. The excellent Ducking Beamers piece on the matter suggested the move was part of a wider play to install a better culture and work ethic within a young team. Without Hussey and Ponting to provide mentoring, Clarke has had to take on a role far beyond that of captain, suggests Brettig. That it was so harsh and authoritarian was out of necessity. Coverdale developed on this theme, saying that any failure to toe the line after two humiliating defeats on tour was simply unacceptable. And lastly, both Clarke and Arthur have suggested, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly, this is not an isolated incident. The players who were dropped may not have always been the culprits, but the team as a whole had a lesson like this coming.
One player who has emerged out of this with little credibility is Shane Watson. As the Vice Captain of the team, for him to have not fully bought in to whatever strategies employed by management suggests he doesn’t know what a VC is meant to do. They are there to be the lieutenant of the captain, enforce his will and be a link between players and management. Coverdale outlines this point of view beautifully, getting the ball rolling on the idea that Watson is a player who doesn’t pull his weight. This view is shared on A Cricketing View, where the author dissects the stats of Watson and points out how deceptively poor they actually are. Watson has done himself no credit by publicly whinging about his treatment, and speculating on whether or not he will continue to play test cricket. Given he has been one of the worst performing test batsmen in recent years for Australia and that he no longer bowls, perhaps he needn’t bother. The icing on the cake must surely be this mocking poem, courtesy of that wrong’un at long on.
And after all that, there is still plenty more on this story to read. One of the more interesting pieces of analysis comes from Raf, who argues that Clarke struggles for dressing room authority due to outdated notions of leadership and stereotypical masculinity. Charlienbaker22 has described an Australian camp that is divided, it is hard to argue with that. Firdose Moonda talks about how out of character an action from Arthur this is, suggesting he is still trying to work out the best approach for the Australian dressing room. And Hugh Fatt-Barstad, well, I couldn’t quite decipher his thoughts on this issue but the piece is pretty funny.
My personal view is that one person has come out of this affair very well. James Pattinson was one of the players banned, and has also incidentally been one of the better Australian players on tour. He is a young man compared to Watson and Johnson, and is a certain selection for the 4th test. More to the point though, when axed, he immediately fronted up and apologised for not taking the exercise seriously. His skills as a bowler have endeared him to the Australian cricketing public, and his willingness to swallow his pride will do him a power of good with Clarke and the selectors. He will have learnt a lesson about jumping through hoops from this, but unlike Khawaja, he will get many more opportunities to play.