LONDON (AFP) – Under-pressure Australia coach Mickey Arthur tried to focus on cricket and the threat posed by Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga as the fall-out from the David Warner affair continued on Saturday.
Title-holders Australia must beat Sri Lanka at The Oval on Monday to have any chance of qualifying for the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy.
But they go into the key fixture still facing questions about their team culture after Australia opening batsman Warner’s attack on England’s Joe Root in a Birmingham bar in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Warner was suspended until the start of the Ashes by Cricket Australia on Thursday and fined Aus$11,500 ($11,000, 7,000).
That means he will miss Monday’s match, where Australia need to overcome the unique challenge posed by slingshot seamer Malinga, renowned for his yorkers, if they are to reach the last four.
Their chances will in part be dependent on the outcome of Sunday’s Group A match between England and New Zealand in Cardiff.
If New Zealand win, Australia face a straight ‘quarter-final’ with Sri Lanka but if England triumph, they must beat Sri Lanka by a sufficiently large margin to surpass New Zealand’s net run-rate, currently the best in the group.
Australia do at least have some recent experience of facing Malinga, having played 10 one-dayers against Sri Lanka during the past 18 months.
“Malinga is a phenomenon. He’s the best death bowler in the world without a doubt at the moment,” Arthur said Saturday.
“We’re very fortunate to have played Sri Lanka a lot over the last 15 months. We’ve had two one-day series against them. All our players have faced quite a bit of Malinga and we’ll have our plans, come the game.
“You talk about the big three in Sri Lanka’s batting; Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Sri Lanka have built up a really nice unit…We know we’ve got to be really on our money.”
In March, four Australia players were dropped for a Test in India for failing to produce a written response to South African coach Arthur’s request for feedback on how the team could improve.
Following the latest disciplinary problem, Australia’s Channel Nine television suggested former vice-captain Shane Watson, one of those dropped in India, had accused Arthur of double standards on the grounds Warner would be available for the first Test against England in Nottingham, starting July 10.
However, Arthur — whose own man-management skills have come under intense scrutiny in recent times — told Australian media that all-rounder Watson had “no massive view” on the kind of punishment Warner should receive.
Arthur, who said it was “irrelevant” how team management found out about the Warner-Root incident, accepted it would be a gamble to play the talented left-hander in the first Test.
“Hypothetically, it would be a risk,” Arthur said. “He wouldn’t have had any cricket — but he would have had training.”
As for the latest off-field controversy involving Warner, who only three weeks ago was fined Aus$5,750 over an expletive-ridden Twitter tirade at two Australian cricket journalists, Arthur said: “I certainly think Dave has put it behind him.
“He’s learnt a big lesson that will hopefully work in the right way for him. The squad is totally focused on the cricket and we all are. That’s what we’re here for: to have a big English summer. Nothing will deter us from that.”