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Coach Mickey Arthur says dropping quartet is 'line in the sand' for Australia

Clarke backs players to return

Mickey Arthur: Line drawn in the sand

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Coach Mickey Arthur says the axing of four players from the squad is a final "line in the sand" for Australian cricket.

Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja were all left out of the squad for the third Test with India in Mohali for failing to submit to management their assessments of what had gone wrong in the first two matches, and how they can improve.

Vice-captain Watson subsequently flew home to be with his pregnant wife and on his arrival he said the punishment was "severe" and is considering his international future.

Watson subsequently became embroiled in a tit-for-tat war of words with Cricket Australia performance manager Pat Howard as the crisis - which has the Australian public gripped - deepened.

"This decision was about sending a strong message that it is about time all players had some accountability for their actions."

Mickey Arthur

Arthur, in his blog on the Cricket Australia website, said his management team had given a fair amount of "laxity and flexibility" to the players because of their youth and inexperience.

Serious

"This decision was about sending a strong message that it is about time all players had some accountability for their actions," he wrote.

"Being late for a meeting, high skinfolds, wearing the wrong attire, back-chat or giving attitude are just some examples of these behavioural issues that have been addressed discretely but continue to happen.

"If we're deadly serious about getting back to number one in the world, all players need to raise the bar and lift their game.

"This is a line in the sand moment," he added. "A point we'll look back on in a couple of years' time when we're back to number one in the world and say was a defining moment."

Skipper Michael Clarke has fully backed the decision to axe the quarter and in his column in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on Wednesday he wrote: "This game owes us, the players, nothing. We owe it everything.

"It's time we showed it the due respect for all the opportunities it has given us. I hope that in time this will be viewed as the boot up the backside we needed."

The affair has caused an uproar in Australia, though the tide of opinion in the national press - initially shock and dismay at the decision - seems to be turning in favour of the management.

Well-respected cricket journalist and author Gideon Haigh hit out at Watson in the Australian,writing: "Probably more coaching and management resources have been poured into him than any cricketer of his generation - for the dividend of two centuries in 40 tests."

Richard Hinds wrote in the Age: "The failure of the quartet to perform the simple task of offering, via e-mail, their opinion on team improvements would invite questions as to whether they would follow more important instructions.

"If it has a positive impact on long-term performance, this might be considered a vital moment for a team in transition."