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Clarke concedes captaincy damage

Daniel Brettig
June 15, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Michael Clarke has had more than a bad back to worry about in England © Getty Images
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Australia's captain Michael Clarke has conceded the actions of David Warner and other team-mates in Birmingham have constituted a serious blow to his leadership. And the coach Mickey Arthur has said that Shane Watson remains to some extent at odds with the team's management, despite the camp's furious denials it was the allrounder who pushed for Warner's punishment after the matter at first appeared likely to be kept in-house.

The lack of strong examples and leaders around the team, both in England and earlier this year in India when four players were suspended for failing to follow team instructions, have pushed the Australian tourists into an embarrassing corner as they teeter on the edge of Champions Trophy elimination and also creep closer to the Ashes. Clarke, who was absent from the team in its important early days on tour due to another flair in his chronic back condition, admitted his captaincy had been damaged by the episodes.

"It certainly has an impact on the leadership. There's no doubt about it," Clarke told AAP. "I think we as a leadership group need to continue to try and improve. I do believe we have come a long way in regards to the culture of this team and setting up our behaviour standards and what we feel is acceptable and non-acceptable. As captain of this team I don't shy away from any accountability."

No less an authority on captaincy than the former England leader Michael Atherton has observed that Clarke's absence from the early days of the tour were particularly ruinous to a young team, whatever the circumstances, for it left them without the man tasked with setting markers for what he expects on tour. The vacuum was illustrated by the fact that Warner was arguably the most senior of the group of players - also including Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade, Phillip Hughes and Clint McKay - who found themselves out drinking at Birmingham's Walkabout pub at 2.30am following their loss to England.

"To be out at that hour … carrying on like we were celebrating [after a loss] - especially with the opposition - is not the right time or place to be having a few drinks," Clarke said. "I know that I need to continue to work on my leadership and make sure I'm doing everything I can in my power for things like this not to happen.

"Because it not only has an impact on Dave, it has an impact on the team, it has an impact on our supporters. The people that come and watch and support our great game. We don't want to be letting anyone down. We've got enough to focus on on the field to become the best team we can be. And we definitely don't need these distractions off the field."

Arthur, meanwhile, has said the former vice-captain Watson still had some way to go to regain the full trust of the team's leaders. Nonetheless, he reiterated Clarke's denials of a television report that suggested Watson had protested at the initial lack of action over Warner's misadventures after the suspensions of four players in India for nothing quite so outlandish as punching an opposition player in a pub.

''We are continually working at that. And Shane is unbelievably professional and gets on with his business in a very professional way,'' Arthur said. "I don't see it as anything particularly bad or anything that's not fixable. Shane obviously lost a little bit of trust after India and we work on that every day.

"And Shane has been fantastic in the way he's come back into the environment and approached that. I chat to Shane every day and we've been through it all. Guys know exactly what the punishments are. And like I said, we have a very solid process in place now."

Australia must defeat Sri Lanka at The Oval on Monday to have any chance of reaching the Champions Trophy semi-finals.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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