The independent voice of cricket


How an off-hand comment from Ed Cowan led to the homework-gate scandal

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

The homework-gate scandal was arguably the defining incident of Mickey Arthur’s spell as the Australia men’s head coach.

Midway through Australia’s tour to India in 2013, Arthur, along with captain Michael Clarke and team manager Gavin Dovey, chose to stand down four players from the Australia team after they failed to complete a simple off-field task – to give three points on how the team could progress and three points on how players could progress as individuals – after their defeat in the second Test at Hyderabad left them 2-0 down in the series with two to play.

The four players in question – Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson – were controversially made ineligible for selection for the third Test of the series in a move that hung over Arthur for the remainder of his reign before he was replaced as Australia coach weeks before that year’s Ashes series in England by Darren Lehmann.

Speaking on the Cricket Life Stories YouTube channel, Arthur, now the Sri Lanka head coach, explained that he did not think much of the quartet’s failure to complete the task at the time and it was only after more members of the support staff caught wind of what was going did matters escalate.

“At the end of the day, I wasn’t that worried…those four players who forgot, all I was going to do that day was to remind them that day when we arrived at Mohali, ‘Hey guys, remember your lists’ and they’d have probably said, ‘Yeah sorry coach, I’ll get them to you tonight.

“But on the plane, I was sitting next to Michael Clarke, the manager Gavin Dovey was next to us and Eddie Cowan was sitting just in front of us. Eddie Cowan just happened to turn around and say, ‘Hey coach, how’s it all going with those things?’ I said, ‘Great but I need four to come in.’ And then the manager said, ‘Who are the four?’ and I said who the four were.

“Then they [members of the support staff] said, ‘that’s not very good, what are we going to do about it?’ In my mind at that point I was just going to nudge them as I got off the plane, it hadn’t become a massive issue for me at that time. It then became common knowledge that those four players hadn’t done it.

“You had Michael, the manager and the support staff saying, ‘What are you going to do?’ And then suddenly I’m sitting in a pickle. They clearly hadn’t done what I’d asked but I didn’t think it was that big a deal at that point in time. Had they not done it by the first practice, that then would have become a massive issue. It became a no-win situation for me.

“I wonder what would have happened to my Australia coaching career if Eddie hadn’t turned around and said, ‘Hey coach, how have the players responded?”

Watson, the Australia vice-captain at the time, labelled the punishment “extremely harsh” after his dropping. The decision to not consider the four players for selection for the third Test in Mohali was widely criticised, with the likes of Mark Waugh remarking: “I’ve never heard anything so stupid in all my life. It’s not under 6s – this is Test cricket.” Australia went on to lose the series 4-0.

You can watch the full Cricket Life Stories interview with Arthur here.

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