Mickey Arthur’s departure comes as no surprise

2010-01-27 00:00

THE departure of Mickey Arthur may have been sudden, but it shouldn’t really come as a surprise.

Arthur’s reign was looking increasingly fragile in the face of a combative captain and an uncompomising executive above him.

He was stuck in the middle, and he has realised that he has come to the end of the road.

There is no shame in what he has done, but the timing only serves to intensify speculation that he was a man with a noose around his neck.

Had South Africa not squared the series against England, we may have already seen Arthur’s exit — but as a dismissal and not as a resignation.

There is a nagging feeling that the Proteas’ lack of progress in 2009 was a real point of agitation for the ambitious Gerald Majola, the CEO of Cricket South Africa.

He had looked optimistically ahead to a new golden era for South African cricket, and both he and Graeme Smith tellingly hinted at the need to rope in someone to take the side to “the next level” during the England series.

That thinly-veiled dig at Arthur was probably the beginning of the end, because it suggested that he was the scapegoat for South Africa’s ponderous plodding through 2009.

There were high hopes for a team that had gone to England, Australia, Pakistan and even India with remarkable success, and then suddenly fizzled out when they had got to the top.

Another point to ponder is modern players’ increasing disdain for an actual coach.

Shane Warne is Smith’s captain at the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, and the former leg-spin wizard’s theories on the usefulness of international coaches is well documented.

Perhaps Smith has begun to lean towards this kind of thinking, where players don’t really require a nanny as much as they do a good friend in the changeroom.

Arthur, too, has done himself no favours with some of his decisions at key intervals.

He admitted that his side had been underdone going into the return series against Australia a year ago.

But he then went on to commit the same sin in the lead-up to the Champions Trophy.

Arthur also seemed to be indecisive, often sitting on the fence when pondering the future prospects of players out of form within the side.

The cases of Makhaya Ntini and Paul Harris readily spring to mind, and this softly-softly approach can only take a team so far in the modern game.

Whatever the reasons, South Africa will be well advised to choose wisely when they pick the next man for the hot seat.

That is if they bother to actually hire someone as coach. England have a “cricket director”, while others in the world have “playing managers” and “technical consultants”.

Players want more power.

What is abundantly clear though, is that the Proteas — Smith in particular — probably feel that the role of coach is one of continuing irrelevance.

Smith holds a great deal of power in his hand. The sheer weight of runs under pressure means that he can dictate terms, and no one can really question him.

What will be interesting is who South Africa rope in as bowling coach to replace Vinnie Barnes. The SA battery of pacemen may be thriving, but they will need some help in trying conditions.

It was most interesting to watch Fanie de Villiers make a big point of being spotted helping out Wayne Parnell in the last Test at the Wanderers.

So don’t be too surprised to see a few familiar faces suddenly appearing in the Proteas’ change-room.



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