Cricket Betting: Shock Sacking as Australia Try to Salvage Tour
To say that Australia’s build up to this Ashes series has been troubled would be something of an understatement. There’s been the 4-0 series whitewash against India, the loss of their Champions Trophy title without winning a game, and no fewer than five players being suspended for various off-field indiscretions. Despite this, though, no-one foretold the news that broke early on Monday morning UK time, that they had sacked coach Mickey Arthur.
Arthur had been in charge of the team for two years, taking over from Tim Nielsen after the last Ashes defeat to England. He was a change from the norm for the Australians, a South African rather than someone from inside the Australian establishment. He already had a strong record in international cricket and until recently that had continued. Prior to that disastrous Indian tour Australia had won 10 of the 15 Tests they had played under Arthur. That record, of course, fell to 10 from 19 in India as confidence in his side seemed to ebb away.
To some extent, Arthur can feel hard done by. It wasn’t his fault that Cricket Australia failed to ensure a supply of quality players so that when Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey retired in quick succession, ripping the heart out of the team’s middle order as they went, he had no ready replacement. What he can be blamed for, though, is that in the absence of those two strong characters he - and to an extent captain Michael Clarke - began to lose the confidence of the dressing room.
That became glaringly obvious in India, when they felt compelled to suspend four players, vice-captain Shane Watson included, for the Third Test. These weren’t suspensions for any major incident (such as the one that got David Warner banned last week) but for failing to comply with a request to give Arthur a list of ways that the team could improve. It smacked of the desperate act of a schoolmaster who couldn’t control his class and so it was proven to be.
The big question is whether it is going to make a blind bit of difference to the outcome of the Ashes for our cricket picks. The man chosen to replace Arthur is Darren Lehmann, until this morning the Queensland and Australia A coach. Aged 43, Lehmann was a dogged left-handed batsman who played a handful of Tests for Australia in the early 2000s and had a very successful career in domestic cricket in England. He will therefore be familiar both with the conditions and many of the England players. He has a fine record as a coach, but no international experience. Significantly, though, he reputation is as a disciplinarian and as a unifying force. He roused what was an underperforming Queensland team to win every Australian domestic trophy during his time in charge and was always going to be the leading candidate to replace Arthur whenever the South African left.
If Lehmann can galvanise this Australian team in such a short space of time then it will be nothing short of remarkable. For all of his reputation it has to be remembered that he is dealing with a squad of players which is already fragmented and which, it is said, is not wholly behind Clarke as captain, either. He’ll also be coaching a squad of players which he had no hand in selecting, which contains four opening batsmen - five if you count Watson - and only one reliable middle order player.
Refelected in the Betting Odds
Those problems remain reflected in the market. Often a change of coach, in any sport, will bring a about a shortening of a team’s price (the betting equivalent of the ‘dead cat bounce’). Not in this case. Australia have drifted out to 9/2 with Coral, whilst England are now as short as 2/5 with Ladbrokes. That is good news for those who fancy a turnaround in Aussie fortunes on the back of Arthur’s sacking, but it doesn’t make happy reading for anyone wanting to back England. On a positive front, the Australians have two warm-up matches before the first Test on July 10, and a good showing there should see England’s odds lengthen again, although it now looks unlikely that you will find them at anything above even money in the short term.