SYDNEY, Australia — Mickey Arthur is taking legal action against Cricket Australia, claiming that his dismissal as national coach involved racial discrimination.
Arthur — a white South African who became the first foreign head coach of Australia’s team when he was appointed in 2011 — was fired last month because he failed to turn around declining standards of discipline in the team.
He was replaced by former Australia test batsman Darren Lehmann.
Lawyers for Arthur confirmed the action on Tuesday, after local media reported that the former South Africa coach is seeking up to $4 million in compensation or his job back with Cricket Australia.
In a statement issued through a law firm, Arthur said he was upset that a private matter that was filed last week with Sydney’s Fair Work Commission (FWC) had been made public.
“We can confirm that last week Mickey Arthur filed proceedings on a number of grounds … for being sacked and scapegoated,” the statement said. “The grounds include racial discrimination. This legal action was filed confidentially with FWC as Mickey was at pains to resolve this issue privately.”
For his part, Arthur added: “I am extremely upset and disappointed that confidential documents appear to have been given by others to the media. The matters raised in my application to the FWC concerning issues within the Australian cricket team are very sensitive, which is why I was at pains to keep them confidential, especially at this time. I have kept them confidential. Unfortunately, others have now made them public.”
The lawyers also said that a “confidential conciliation between the parties has been scheduled for next week.”
The news was leaked two days before Australia takes on England in the second Ashes test at Lord’s, and only two days after the Australians lost a tension-filled series-opening match by 14 runs at Nottingham.
Arthur’s FWC application reportedly contained insider details of a divisive split between captain Michael Clarke and allrounder Shane Watson, confirming rumours that have swirled around the team for months and that could have been responsible for Watson’s decision to quit as vice-captain of the national team.
Clarke declined to comment on Arthur’s actions, but said after a training session in London on Tuesday that there was no problem with team harmony.
“I can’t remember for a long time the team being as united as we are right now,” Clarke was quoted as saying. “And it is no coincidence (Lehmann) played a big part in that. As a man, as a gentleman, he brings that to the forefront.”
Earlier, a Seven Network television report cited court documents it says show Arthur is seeking payments and compensation to the end of his 2015 contract. His salary was reportedly $400,000 per year plus some $200,000 a year in bonuses. Arthur, who was praised for the humility he showed after he was suddenly fired last month, has now been criticized by former Australia players including Shane Warne for the timing of the action and the revelations contained in it.
Seven said Arthur claims he was discriminated against because he was from South Africa and did not understand the Australian way.
The court documents also show Arthur saw himself as the “meat in the sandwich” amid a fierce feud between Clarke and Watson, Seven reported.
The network added that Arthur also alleged Watson told him about the incident in which Australia opener David Warner punched England batsman Joe Root during the Champions Trophy. Arthur was fired shortly after the incident and Warner was subsequently fined and suspended.
“We’re disappointed it has come to this position, but Cricket Australia is confident in its position on this matter and I’m sure it will get resolved in an appropriate fashion,” CA lawyer Dean Kino told Seven.
Arthur guided Australia to 10 wins, six losses and three draws from his appointment in November 2011, but he polarized public opinion when he dropped four players — including then vice-captain Watson — for the third test in India for failing to complete written reports on their individual contributions to the team’s performance. The embarrassing saga was quickly dubbed “Homeworkgate.”
Watson left India before returning a week later to captain the team in the fourth test after Clarke was sidelined with injury. He has since stood down as vice-captain and, for the Ashes tour, veteran Brad Haddin was recalled as Clarke’s deputy despite not being the first-choice wicketkeeper in more than a year.