The Heart of Coach Arthur

If there was one man, above any other, I’d want in my corner in times of crisis it would be Mickey Arthur, especially if somebody was making scurrilous accusations against me. Loyalty flows as thick in his veins as blood and if you needed a man with whom to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, there is nobody better.

So it came as no surprise when Arthur came out fighting on behalf of his players when former fitness adviser Adrian le Roux wrote in his resignation letter following the World Cup that he believed “the use of alcohol is a problem in the national team.”

What was surprising was the strident level of the coach’s defence. He came perilously close to discrediting Le Roux which, as every player who has ever worked with him knows, is impossible. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid made personal appeals to him to stay on with India and not accept the Proteas job when offered it four years ago.

So for Mickey Arthur to describe his observations as “rubbish” and to call his report “totally one-sided” represents quite a gamble. I mean, what if those comments made Le Roux really angry – no, that’s not possible, he’s far too calm. But what if it made some of Le Roux’s many, many friends really angry and they decided to defend his honour and integrity by
providing some evidence of what Le Roux observed at close quarters for four years?

Arthur knows things aren’t perfect within the squad and his confident statement that the 72-hour alcohol curfew before games was always adhered to would be regarded as bizarre if it were not so clever. Like all coaches and captains, Arthur would much prefer to keep all disciplinary matters ‘in house’ and deal with them behind closed doors. As, indeed, he says he did with the only two breaches of discipline he has encountered during his tenure so far.

So his bluff and bluster now is a cunning ploy to throw the smokescreen of privacy back over his players allowing him and his captain to deal with whatever ‘situation’ there maybe without the prying eyes and ears of the public. And Arthur’s way, generally, is to encourage his players to be mature, responsible adults who react to the privilege of self-policing by not drinking at the wrong time, or too much, and going to bed at a reasonable hour.

The curious thing is, the coach has also mentioned two or three times now that the imminent appointment of a team manager to “handle all disciplinary matters” would make a significant difference. In other words, the ‘self-policing’ approach hasn’t been an unqualified success.

My point is that denial is natural and good and fine provided it is used to buy a little time and privacy to address the issue. But denial is bad if it is used to brush the issue under the carpet as it was four years ago when

Le Roux’s predecessor, Andy Gray, wrote a similar report.

I often wonder whether people think a journalist feels triumphant when they ‘break’ a story like this. Well, it sucks. It’s horrible. Some people inevitably shoot the messenger and you can end up feeling ‘blamed’ for the contents of the article! But everyone’s job is horrible at times.

Another misperception is that journalists break into filing cabinets marked ‘top secret’ at midnight in order to obtain documents like Le Roux’s report. The truth is, they are sent to you by well placed individuals who care rather than office cleaners who are stirring trouble.

So Cricket South Africa are “disappointed that a confidential document was leaked to the media”. And so they should be, but they should remember two things. 1). That is not my fault. 2). They should be a lot more disappointed about the contents of the report than the fact that it was leaked.

Finally, Le Roux said that drinking was “a problem.” He did not say “a huge problem” or “a significant problem” or even “an insurmountable problem”. A better response than denial from CSA might have been “We respect Adrian’s ability and opinion and will be taking the contents of his report seriously, and if there is a problem we will address it.”

PS – If Cricket South Africa do allow themselves to be distracted by the ‘leak’ and start a witch hunt (commonly referred to as an ‘internal inquiry’) they can cut quickly to the prize. You can almost guarantee, in such circumstances, that the person who suggests the inquiry is the biggest suspect.

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