"You can be the best captain in the world, but if you've got a bunch of bozos around you, you've got no chance. The reverse is also true if you're the worst captain. With 14 good ones around you, you will always get away with it."
Michael Clarke must now recognise the truth of that argument at the denouement of an Ashes series, in which his leadership has been praised as inventive and innovative and he has lived by the maxim of former Australia bowler Shane Warne, that you have to be prepared to lose to win. Much good it has done Clarke, one of the world's premier batsmen, whose dismal lot it has been to have ended up in charge of one of the worst Australian sides in their history.
Yesterday's remarkable sequence of events at The Oval only reinforced the feeling that his side remain unsure of their short-term tactics, their best XI, and their grand vision for the future. And the worst aspect of the slump is that they have less than three months before "Ashes to Ashes" commences in Brisbane on November 21. England, even by their own admission, have not been at their best during the recent campaign, in which Jonny Bairstow and Steven Finn were dropped, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior struggled for form, and - away from centre stage - Monty Panesar blotted his copybook in spectacular fashion, while Stuart Broad's refusal to walk eventually induced Australia coach, Darren Lehmann, to call him a cheat who would "cry" in Oz.
Perhaps Broad will end up blubbing, but it is much easier to follow the track of the Australians' tears than it is to fathom the logic of their unquenchable desire to chop and change. On the credit side, they have a Test-class pace attack, with Ryan Harris confounding the doubters who kept waiting for him to break down with another injury, while James Faulkner excelled on his debut and James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc enhanced their reputations to the point where England never reached 400 in any innings of the series.
The batting, though, is still a massive problem for Lehmann's side, and, considering the ages of Clarke, Chris Rogers and Brad Haddin, they urgently require a fresh injection of talent if they are to recover from going nine consecutive matches without a victory. David Warner, on the available evidence, seems to be better in the field and with his fists than compiling the sort of knocks which would assist the Aussies; Usman Khawaja has been so out of his depth that it is difficult to contemplate the selectors picking him again, barring a wholesale transformation in his fortunes; and Phil Hughes must privately be seething at being in and out of the picture, forever on the periphery without gaining a sustained opportunity in the team.
From a neutral perspective, one can applaud Clarke's positivity and determination to change things, without agreeing with his decision to declare at tea yesterday and offer his adversaries an all-too-attainable target. Of course, it is easy to be wise with the benefit of hindsight, and it might not have mattered so much if these countries were not meeting for the next couple of years, but you have to ask whether Clarke honestly believed he could skittle England in the space of 44 overs.
If he did, it was a reckless gamble which nearly blew up in his face and the scenes of him crossing swords with the umpires, as bad light ruined the climax, did nothing for his standing, nor the credibility of cricket as a branch of the entertainment industry. But if he didn't, why on earth would he gift such a large dollop of extra momentum to Cook's side when they were already in the ascendancy? Unless, of course, he has privately resolved that somebody else should pick up the reins of captaincy and cope with the responsibility when the next campaign gets underway.
Ultimately, one would not blame him. Clarke is nearer the end of his career than the beginning and has a history of back problems. He grew less effective at the crease as the summer advanced and it is asking a lot for him to put his body through the wringer again within such a short timeframe. But Australia require big contributions from him, Rogers and Shane Watson and the cupboard looks bare beyond that triumvirate. In which light and despite their frailties, England are very much in the box seat.
Yes, the final 3-0 margin may have flattered them, but you tend to generate your own luck in sport. It has not been a vintage contest, marred by myriad DRS controversies, and a sense that both camps have their own pouting prima donnas and huffy souls. But the Australians have an awful lot to do to regain the initiative or risk withering on the vine.