Retired pace spearhead Mitchell Johnson has slammed the Australian team culture under former captain Michael Clarke and coach Mickey Arthur as fractured and "toxic", saying the dynamics changed when Ricky Ponting retired.
Johnson enjoyed his best spell of his career under Clarke, masterminding the 5-0 Ashes whitewash at home in 2013-'14, picking up 120 Test wickets in 27 Tests at 24.71 along the way.
Johnson, who recently released his autobiography, Resilient, suggested things were so bad that some team-mates didn’t want to play. The left-armer was one of four players suspended for not completing a feedback task during Australia’s shambolic tour of India in 2013. Clarke and Arthur both rubber stamped the punishments.
Arthur was eventually sacked before the side’s next Test campaign, the 2013 Ashes. It was reported during that tour that Arthur alleged Clarke had described senior teammate Shane Watson as "a cancer on the team".
Johnson has opened up about the "homeworkgate” saga, suggesting cliques had developed after Ricky Ponting handed the captaincy over to Clarke in 2011. "The dynamics definitely changed. It became more groups in the team. It wasn’t a team... There was different little factions going on and it was very toxic,” Johnson told Fox Sports News. "It just built very slowly but everyone could see it, everyone could feel it and nothing was being done at that time.”
The 34-year old said that the youngsters coming into the team could sense the 'toxic' atmosphere and weren't too happy with Clarke. He said, "Even some of the young guys coming through could see it a mile away and they didn't enjoy it, they said claimed state cricket to be a lot more fun."
The former Australian bowler said that his relationship with Clarke became patchy right after the homework-gate. "I didn't take it too well," he said. "I guess the relationship was pretty strained at that point of time within the team - I definitely felt like an outsider.”
Clarke was back in the headlines last week following the release of his autobiography, which revisited his run-ins with Watson and Simon Katich.
He said Watson was part of a group that was "like a tumour" on the team, to which Watson replied that bringing up history reflected poorly on the former captain.
Katich, meanwhile, denied Clarke's claims the two were now friends following a volatile showdown between the pair in the Sydney Cricket Ground changing rooms after a Test win in 2009.
"(Our relationship) has been non-existent, so to suggest we are mates now after everything that has happened is a bit of a stretch," said Katich.