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The Rot Started With The Temporary Captain

After an enthralling test series where Team India will conquer their "final frontier", all fingers are being waggled at the wrong characters players in the Australian dressing room. While some Australian players are undoubtedly unworthy of wearing the baggy green, nothing is as clear as the need for Australia's temporary captain to accept full responsibility for his team's embarrassing and farcical performance.

TPaine's lack of leadership ability and presence on the field means that this hapless Australian team never had a chance in this series or any other that it takes the field under his leadership. Despite this humiliation at the hands of King Kohli's warriors, it appears that everyone but TPaine's position in the team is up for question.

I put it to you that effective and prominent leadership is required in exactly two situations in cricket:
  1. When a team is performing poorly and well below the sum of its individual parts; and
  2. When a team is performing well with a core of established, confident and outspoken stars.
Cricket, in particular, is a sport where leadership must come from the captain, because it is the captain who makes the real decisions in the heat of battle. A cricket captain's role is not just to make bowling changes and decide the batting order. His most important job is to coax, cajole and demand team performances that far exceed the sum of his teammates' abilities.

You should already have joined the dots to arrive at the conclusion that TPaine has been an abject failure in performing the most important component of his job. If you're still on the fence, consider this:
  • It was Allan Border's captaincy that turned his group of above average cricketers into world beaters. Before Border, Australian cricket was in crisis during the Hughes era.
  • Nasser Hussain employed not only tactics, but presence to turn a team of club cricketers into frustrating, fierce competitors - quite a departure from the dismal results that a myriad of English captains before him managed to produce.
  • Glen Turner brought in Lee Germon as a specialist captain to reform the team after a decade of insipidness under Rutherford and co. While Germon had little success, he paved the way for a strong, long-term captain that New Zealand needed, Stephen Fleming.
  • Mark Taylor had the presence (and gum chewing ability) to scare an elephant and this helped him to harness the talents and desires of great players to forge a dynasty. Ditto Steve Waugh. Ditto Ricky Ponting.
  • The Prince was the exact dose of attitude, clarity and vision that the doctor ordered to cure the traditional and self-inflicted ills of Indian cricket. Ganguly single-handedly dragged Indian cricket out of its generations-long slumber.
  • I'm ill qualified to comment on the Gary Sobers and Clive Lloyd reigns, but from all accounts those two blokes did a statistically fine job of managing the biggest egos south of Wall Street.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not having a go at TPaine. He's doing the best he can, but he simply doesn't have the toolbox to succeed as an Australian captain. By all accounts, he's a nice guy, and this may just be where the problem lies. He's probably TOO nice.

If King Kohli is at one end of spectrum of expressive leaders, TPaine weighs in at the exact opposite. I'm all for captains supporting their players when the chips are down. But, captaincy is not a popularity contest. The captain must be willing and able to bring the thunder when it is becomes painfully obvious that certain personalities are under-performing.

I challenge you to conjure a single instance where TPaine has reacted with even the mildest hint of emotion at a piece of poor fielding or bowling. While I agree with you that negativity doesn't always help, you will also have to admit that a timely injection of emotion goes a long way to extracting inspired performances that do not correlate with talent or ability.

As someone who has oft railed against the arrogance of Australian cricketers, particularly Australian captains, it is so pathetic to watch one who only serves to remind me of the white flag of surrender. Australian cricketing tradition has not been built on the backs of nice guys who accept definitions of "the line" rather than writing those oh-so-convenient definitions.

In the grim wake of Cape Town, Australian cricket may have needed a new personality at the top, but what miscalculation convinced the powers-that-be that they needed a person with characteristics completely unrecognisable from those of his recent predecessors?

Again, this is not TPaine's fault. He was made a temporary captain by his Board. But somewhere along the way, the Board lost itself in its own troubles and forgot to install a real captain.

Unfortunately, TPaine's legacy will only be that of a captain who "led" a team that plumbed horrific depths that Australian cricket and its fans would not have imagined in their worst nightmares. After all, we know that the rot always starts from the top.

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