Former Test batsman heads back to school

New outlook lands Lehmann in coaching

Peter English

May 5, 2008

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It took Darren Lehmann a long time to become comfortable with the role of the full-time coach. A natural, free-swinging player, he was happier doing rather than thinking for much of his career. Now he wants to be one.

Lehmann retired from the first-class scene last year and the break from South Australia has helped him re-discover his love for the game. To stay involved he now wants to pass on the things he did and didn't learn during his long career.

"There's so much out there," he said during a break from a level three coaching course in Brisbane. "You are allowed to know more as you get older. I knew a lot more at the end of my career, but I thought I knew a lot more at the start."

Lehmann, who played 27 Tests and 117 internationals, was essentially self-taught while picking up important tips from David Hookes, Greg Chappell and Wayne Phillips. "Having a 'coach' coach has never been high on my agenda," he said. "When I stopped playing I fell in love with the game again. Then you want to become a coach. I love watching and want to learn about all the coaching techniques going on behind the scenes."

The Centre of Excellence, where the course is being held, is a familiar place for Lehmann, who last year travelled with the Academy side as an assistant, a role he will repeat this winter. As a teenager Lehmann rejected the chance to attend the facility when it was based in Adelaide, but 20 years later he is one of the many past players who has turned into a tutor.

"It's really enjoyable, and I can have an influence on them," he said. "I'm trying to up-speed them as players. I learnt most things after 30 as a player. Now I try to help them to do it in their 20s, so they reach their peak earlier."

Lehmann is joined at the seminar by his former South Australia team-mate Greg Blewett, a light-footed batsman who played 46 Tests between 1995 and 2000. Blewett stopped playing last year and has kept himself busy working as a television commentator. "I'm at the stage where I'm trying to find out what I like the most," he said. "It's really a trial and error thing."

Lisa Keightley, the Australia women's coach and former opening batsman, is also on the course along with the current first-class players Dan Marsh, Andrew McDonald and Nick Jewell. Rumesh Ratnayake, the Sri Lanka fast bowler of the 1980s and 90s, and Douglas Hondo, who appeared in nine Tests for Zimbabwe, add an international flavour to the Cricket Australia initiative, which is being run alongside Australia's pre-tour camp for the West Indies tour.

"To have the likes of Lehmann, Blewett and Keightley working with other high performance coaches from around the country and overseas will provide a fantastic learning environment for what is Australia's flagship coach education program," Tim Nielsen, the national coach, said. "This course illustrates the importance of ongoing education for coaches."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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