Side undergoes further turmoil off-field in lead up to important series.
Australia’s Ashes campaign is in turmoil just weeks before the series against England starts with coach Mickey Arthur sensationally sacked and Darren Lehmann expected to take over.
In a day of stunning developments, skipper Michael Clarke also reportedly quit as a selector as part of the coaching restructure.
Although Cricket Australia did not officially announce Arthur’s sacking, Queensland Cricket said the governing body had confirmed his termination.
“I’ve spoken to Cricket Australia here in Australia and they’ve sent through a note saying that Mickey Arthur has been relieved of his coaching position,” Queensland Cricket chief executive Richard Powell told the ABC.
South African Arthur was dumped after a meeting with Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland in Bristol, reports said earlier. A source also confirmed the news to AFP.
“Cricket Australia will hold a media conference with James Sutherland and (high performance coach) Pat Howard in Bristol tonight to discuss the coaching structure of the Australian team,” Cricket Australia said in a statement.
Australian media outlets said Lehmann, who is in England coaching Australia A, would replace Arthur, 45, whose contract was due to run until the end of the World Cup in March 2015.
Arthur, the first foreign-born coach of the Australian team when appointed in November 2011, appears to have paid the price for a poor Champions Trophy campaign and a lack of discipline within the team, which came to a head with a David Warner punch-up incident earlier this month.
Sutherland was furious and demanded the team crack down on bad behaviour.
Warner was fined Aus$11,500 ($11,000) and suspended until the start of the Ashes series for punching England batsman Joe Root in a Birmingham bar during the Champions Trophy.
Several others players were with him in the bar in the early hours of the morning, raising concerns about the culture inside the Australian squad
It followed vice-captain Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja all being disciplined during the India tour this year after failing to submit feedback requested by team management.
Arthur, whose Test record since taking over in 2011 was 10 wins, six losses and three draws, courted controversy by sending the players home midway through the series.
Only last week, he admitted to the ABC it had been a tough few months.
“We’ve gone through a tough period, I make no bones about that, but I’m enjoying it every day,” he said at the time.
“It’s a massive challenge. Rest assured I won’t leave until I get it right.”
Lehmann, 43, has strong credentials to take over the national job after coaching success with Queensland, Brisbane Heat and in the Indian Premier League.
He played 27 Tests and 117 one-day internationals and is regarded as one of cricket’s shrewdest thinkers.
Former Australia captain Allan Border said Lehmann was the obvious choice to replace Arthur.
“Darren Lehmann is over in England with the Australia A side and he would be the obvious choice because he does create a great atmosphere for the players and that’s what they need,” Border told Fox Sports News.
“He’s a old hard head that’s been around for a while and he can get them focused on the one job and that’s beating England.”
Australia play the first Test against England in Nottingham on July 10 and former Test batsman Mark Waugh said the timing of Arthur’s sacking was not good.
“There’s definitely been issues within the squad with team unity and there’s a lack of experience there, so it just hasn’t been working. It’s a very dramatic decision at such an important time,” he said.
“It’s going to put a lot more pressure on Michael Clarke who has been under enough pressure himself with his back injury. So it’s not an ideal situation.”
According to Fairfax Media, Clarke quit as a selector in the wake of Arthur’s sacking. It said there was concern among certain influential people in cricket that having the captain as a selector was eroding the relationship between players and their skipper.
The Ashes squad were due to meet for the first time in Taunton in England on Monday, with their first pre-Ashes tour match against English county Somerset beginning on Wednesday.