Darren Lehmann has declared he will use honesty and enjoyment to stamp out a mass of off-field problems and inject confidence into an Australian team that is now commencing their Ashes campaign with a new but trusted coach.
Lehmann has been appointed Australia’s new head coach until the end of the 2015 World Cup after Mickey Arthur was sacked over what Cricket Australia called failures of discipline, consistency of behaviour and accountability. Lehmann will take over immediately and has just over two weeks to prepare the squad for the first Ashes Test after the drastic decision by Cricket Australia’s management.
“There won’t be any ongoing problems. We’ll get everything right off the field,” Lehmann said. “It’s important to talk about the game, whether it’s with a beer or a Diet Coke I don’t mind, to be perfectly honest. It’s about learning the game and improving our skills. That’s what we’re about on this tour, improving our skills as cricketers and people, and performing at the level everyone would expect back home for us to do.
“It’s a challenge for all the playing group and everyone involved. The team is going to play a certain way. We’re going to play an aggressive brand of cricket that entertains the fans but also gets the job done on and off the field. I’m excited by the challenge.”
James Sutherland, the CA chief executive, sat alongside the team performance manager Pat Howard and explained the decision.
“This has been a difficult decision to make but one that we feel is necessary,” James Sutherland, the CA chief executive, said. “We are looking to establish a high-performing Australian cricket team that is consistent over a period of time. To achieve that, we need all the parts moving in the right direction. Recent on-field results have been too inconsistent.
“Discipline, consistency of behaviour and accountability for performance are all key ingredients that need to improve. And we see that the head coach is ultimately responsible for that. The Cricket Australia board decided yesterday that Mickey Arthur should not continue as head coach of the Australian cricket team. In taking this decision, the Board accepted the recommendation to make an immediate change as being in the best interests of the team.
“The timing is far from ideal but we didn’t feel we could sit back and hope matters would change without addressing issues critical to a high performing team culture. It obviously isn’t the type of change we want to make three weeks out from the Ashes commencing but we believe a change is needed.”
Sutherland also accepted responsibility for the management of the team slipping so far out of hand that Arthur’s sacking had arrived at such an inopportune moment, even though concerns around the team had been mounting from the moment Michael Hussey joined Ricky Ponting in retirement last summer.
Sutherland acknowledged that Lehmann’s position as a widely respected figure in Australian cricket and popular coach at state and IPL levels would help provide a bridge over the gap left by Hussey and Ponting, one that Arthur had failed to deal with in India and in the early weeks of the tour of the UK.
“Mickey’s job was made tougher by the departures, perhaps premature departures of Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting,” Sutherland said.
“That’s not an excuse, that’s how it happened. But certainly Darren is close to the players, he knows a lot of them, a couple of them actually played with him. And I think that’s another reason why I have great confidence sitting here today in saying I believe the players will respond very positively under Darren.
Arthur conceded that the team had not galvanised sufficiently under his tenure. (cricinfo)