The West

Katich-Veletta feud started WA decline
Katich-Veletta feud started WA decline

The decline of WA cricket from the strongest domestic first-class program in the world to a basket case on par with the most dysfunctional Pakistan administration can be traced back to one single event just over a decade ago.

That was the moment batsman Simon Katich fell out with then-coach Mike Veletta in a dispute over a family matter.

Katich was one of the State's brightest lights, a player who had made his Test debut a few months earlier and was considered a possible Test captain of the future.

He was an outstanding player, a charismatic leader and fine person.

There were few people in WACA circles who did not recognise that Katich's steel and smarts would provide the cornerstone of the State's progress over the next decade.

But his departure ushered in an era marked by incompetence, compromise, a focus on words rather than actions and - but for one glorious afternoon at the Gabba in 2004 - zero on-field success.

So there was a certain irony that Katich was the catalyst for what may become the watershed moment in any bid to end the rot that has seen the WACA wallow in mediocrity for so many years.

Katich was the whistleblower at Cape Town last week who revealed that some of his Perth Scorchers colleagues had compromised their preparation for the vital Champions League match against Delhi.

Standing in for ill captain Marcus North, Katich made several mild comments to a handful of journalists after the loss to the Delhi Daredevils.

"We did not prepare as well as we should have and we have paid the price," Katich said. "I am not going to go into details but we got what we deserved. We had a very good Big Bash, but this tournament we have let ourselves down and we have not played anywhere near as well as we did last summer."Katich said later that it was not his place to reveal who or what he was referring, but it did not take long for more details to emerge.

The Scorchers had travelled to Cape Town on Thursday last week following a wash-out against Kolkata in Durban the night before.

The players had a low-key recovery session before heading off to a team dinner to celebrate Mitch Marsh's 21st birthday.

The Friday was the first free day of the tour and there was a sense that they would be able to let their hair down given they had no commitments the next day and the Delhi match was not for three days.

All but two of the 15-man squad and some officials met at a restaurant, a short walk from the hotel.

It is clear that at some point the dinner changed from sampling some of Cape Town's finest food and the best wines into a riot of hard drinking.

"A couple of blokes flicked the switch and there was no coming back," one observer said.

Not everyone remained by that stage, with several players suggesting Mitch Marsh had left reasonably early, while there were other reports that some players and officials were still going strong well into the early hours of the morning.

Shaun and Mitch Marsh paid the price for their excesses by being dropped for the final match against Auckland, but coach Lachlan Stevens said others, including Cape Town native Herschelle Gibbs, would have also been axed if there had been enough replacements.

The Warriors are no strangers to excessive drinking, with Shaun Marsh and Luke Pomersbach receiving repeated warnings and sanctions for their behaviour.

Mitch Marsh's behaviour has also been in the spotlight since he was a 15-year-old touring Adelaide with the State under-19 team.

Pomersbach was suspended five times and received seven official warnings one season before his WA stint inevitably imploded last year.

Favourite WA son Tom Moody was coach during Pomersbach's darkest times. The decision to retain him despite numerous last-chance warnings led to such a deterioration of Moody's relationship with senior batsman Chris Rogers that the Warriors soon lost another outstanding player to another State.

WACA officialdom has regularly turned a blind eye to the behaviour of its players, but that is little surprise given that cricket operations have received a far lower priority than rectifying the association's once-parlous financial position and focusing on a multi-million dollar ground redevelopment.

WA have had five different coaches in the decade since Katich and Veletta fell out and there have been five chief executives in the same time, a number of those finding it difficult to come to terms with the WACA's multiple challenges.

Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards said this week that it was time WA got their act together on the field.

Edwards should know - he has been a WACA vice-president for the past decade and has intimate knowledge of the issues that have seen WA dubbed "the wild west" by Eastern States observers long bemused and alarmed at the never-ending list of dramas.

Katich's departure triggered WA's decline. His honesty has brought the latest issue to light.

Maybe he still has another role to play in WA's bid to regain their cricket lustre.

The West Australian

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