From playing an “un-Australian” way to losing the love of supporters, Michael Clarke has slammed the national cricket side following their T20 World Cup exit.
The World Cup-winning captain, who prefaced his spray by saying he did not want to create “headlines”, did not hold back on morning radio as he said the ghosts of Sandpapergate and Justin Langer’s messy departure as coach had left a bitter taste in the mouth of the public.
The fallout of Australia’s failed World Cup defence is set to continue throughout the rest of the tournament, as Aaron Finch’s men were knocked out in unusual circumstances over the weekend.
While there was a sense of inevitability around Australia’s departure from the group stage, Finch’s side did not so much go out swinging but merely limped throughout the tournament.
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Their crushing 89-run defeat in the opening match to New Zealand left Australia playing catch up and the less than convincing performances against Ireland and Afghanistan meant they finished the group stage with a negative run-rate – a factor that ultimately saw England leapfrog their Ashes rivals on Saturday.
Selection also dominated discussion throughout the tournament, with Finch’s place debated from start to finish.
Nor was he the only one, however, with Mitchell Starc extraordinarily dropped for the final match.
“The frustrating thing for me is – I think they missed a trick against Ireland … and then against Afghanistan, I don’t know what I was watching,” Clarke said on the Big Sports Breakfast.
“It felt like they were doing everything they could just to beat Afghanistan. I know you can never just wipe the floor with a team and have that attitude but they had to. They had to walk out there against Afghanistan and say, ‘we’re going to make 200 and bowl you out for 100’ but they just didn’t have that aggressiveness, they didn’t have that fire in the belly, even in the field they looked a bit sluggish in the field.”
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Former England captain Michael Vaughan agreed, saying Australia did not look their usual combative selves and highlighted their meek showing with the bat against New Zealand.
“Australian sides of old certainly would’ve got 140, 150 against New Zealand and then would have blown Ireland away for 80 or 90 (runs),” Vaughan told Cricbuzz Live.
“They would’ve been ruthless.
“That’s why I look at this group I don’t think they’re quite as ruthless as some of the old (Australian) teams.
“I don’t see that from this Australian team. I think they’re quite a nice team to play against.”
Clarke went as far as saying Finch’s side delivered a “very un-Australian” performance throughout the World Cup.
“I think Australians in general, on the biggest stage under the most amount of pressure, always put in on the line and have a crack. We’re not scared to lose. Yet we picked an aggressive 11 in this World Cup squad yet played so defensively. Very un-Australian,” Clarke said.
“This is the part I hate from past players or journos – I know it’s your job but I hate kicking a team when they’re down. There’s a number of things that have gone down in this World Cup campaign, even leading into this World Cup campaign that I think I’ve been quite vocal about. I don’t want to kick them now and I don’t want headlines, ex-captain smashes Australian team.
“I just think they got a number of things wrong and I made it very clear in commentary that I think leaving Mitchell Starc out of the team against Afghanistan was one of those things.
“They’ve got a lot to look at, it’s not just the players. I think some of the decisions made over the past few months leading up to the World Cup they need to look at. For me, hopefully they find a way to improve.
“You can’t win every game, every tournament, I understand that. But with the Australian cricket team there is high expectation and we want to see our team make the final and win tournaments and series.”
Former all-rounder Simon O’Donnell described Australia’s mentality as “emotionless” throughout the tournament and highlighted Virat Kohli’s emotional-driven knocks as what the host nation lacked.
He also hit out at the comments coming out from the Australian team, including Finch before the tournament started, that they were fatigued.
“I think that’s a problem that needs to be further discussed and addressed, particularly when a captain of the national team is saying it before a tournament starts. That’s white flag stuff before it even starts,” O’Donnell told SEN.
“We understand where that fatigue comes from and why it’s there. I’m sure they’ll have those discussions, but we can’t go to tournaments like this and still play in the IPL and all the things we do outside of playing for Australia.
“People are putting a lot more importance on outside tournaments than they are of climbing the ladder to get to play for Australia and missing an IPL to make sure they’re right for a tournament like this. I must admit, the fatigue (excuse) doesn’t hold water with me.”
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Australia’s capitulation against New Zealand in the opening match of the tournament also led people to question the home side’s preparation.
Former coach Langer was considered a master for tactical plans and scenario-based games, leading the Scorchers to three Big Bash titles.
While he reportedly took a backseat during Australia’s T20 World Cup triumph, he also was the coach for the nation’s maiden breakthrough in the tournament.
Clarke said Langer would not have allowed Australia to go down in such ugly circumstances.
“I feel for Andrew McDonald because he’s a great bloke but I guarantee to you, if JL was coach of this team, this team would have got a massive boot up the backside well before the tournament started,” he said.
Clarke added that the stench left from the two ugly moments that have rocked Australian cricket over the past half-a-decade had not been forgotten by the wider community.
“The other thing as well, and I said it a few weeks ago on here, at the moment I feel like there’s a real dislike for the Aussie team and I want to see that turn around,” he said.
“We’ve got messages this morning, it seems like so many people are happy that Australia lost.
“There’s still angst around Justin Langer being sacked or resigning, how that went down. I think there’s angst around our style of play and how we’re playing.
“Patty Cummins has got a big job as captain and Andrew McDonald if he’s going to be coach in trying to turn a few things around.
“I think allowing the fans to be back a part of their cricket team is so important. I think the fans feel like they are well and truly left out and nobody is taking notice of what they want and what they need for Australian cricket to get back to being a powerhouse and a well-supported national team.
“Australian cricket has always tried to be the No.1 team in the country but we’re nowhere near that now.”