Australia forced to deny claims Ashes squad is riven by feud

 
Frank Dalleres
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AUSTRALIA wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin insists the squad is united despite explosive claims, attributed to sacked coach Mickey Arthur, that captain Michael Clarke and all-rounder Shane Watson are at loggerheads.

The allegations, which are believed to feature in court documents pertaining to Arthur’s £2.5m claim for compensation from his former paymasters, threaten to disrupt the tourists before tomorrow’s second Ashes Test.

They also constitute the latest blow to an Australia side reeling from Sunday’s first-Test defeat and a litany of on and off-field disasters this year, which culminated in Arthur’s replacement by Darren Lehmann.

Watson was among four players dropped for failing to provide feedback during the series whitewash in India earlier this year, but Haddin yesterday rubbished suggestions of lingering discord.

“We’re all pretty excited to be in an Ashes campaign. All the other stuff that we can talk about is white noise so it’s not something that has affected the side at all,” said the 35-year-old.

“We’re here to play an Ashes campaign, I’m not going to get into what ifs and who was better than this and who wasn’t as good as this.

“Our job is to just get on with this campaign.

“The Australian dressing room is fine. There is no feud. I don’t know how many times we need to answer this. I think everyone was surprised [by Arthur’s sacking], but there’s no point talking about it anymore. We’ve gone past all this.”

Watson, 32, is one of the most experienced campaigners in the Australia squad and a key player, both as an opening batsman and a medium-pace bowler. He fell foul of the Arthur-Clarke axis in March, along with James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja, when the quartet were dropped for failing to complete a team survey, in an embarrassing episode dubbed “homeworkgate”.

Arthur presided over further indiscipline once his team arrived in Britain for the Champions Trophy, when opener David Warner punched England batsman Joe Root in a Birmingham bar, earning a ban.

South African Arthur, who was sacked last month just two weeks before the Ashes, is also thought to be claiming that he was discriminated against because of his nationality. Cricket Australia lawyer Dean Kino said: “We are disappointed that it has come to this position. But Cricket Australia is confident in its position on this matter, and I’m sure it’ll get resolved in the appropriate fashion.”