Australia news April 29, 2014

Lehmann reflects on racial outburst

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Australia's coach Darren Lehmann has called his racial outburst against Sri Lanka in 2003 "the biggest mistake" of his life, and also offered an insight into how he manages the diverse personalities and egos present within the national team, from Mitchell Johnson to David Warner.

Lehmann has returned to work at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane following a long and wildly successful summer with the Test team, and is currently planning for the challenges ahead over the next two years, including the 2015 World Cup in Australia and the defence of the Ashes in England a few months later.

In an interview with the ABC's 7.30 on Tuesday, Lehmann reflected on the storm created by his bellowed rebuke of "black c****" in the dressing room after he was run-out in a Brisbane ODI against Sri Lanka 11 years ago, and what he said had become a cautionary tale he has shared with numerous players.

"It was the biggest mistake of my life. I apologised for it on the night, to the captain Kumar Sangakkara [Sanath Jayasuriya was captain] and the Sri Lankan team, and hopefully they've forgiven me and we can move on," Lehmann said of an offence that had him banned for five ODIs. "I speak about it honestly, it was a big mistake, and it was a big learning curve in my career and if I can impart anything on other players along the way, then so be it."

A decade later, Lehmann took on the job as Australia's coach on the eve of the 2013 Ashes tour of England, following the sacking of Mickey Arthur. Among Lehmann's most vital tasks was to regain a sense of unity and fun among the players, who had splintered into cliques during Arthur's time as coach amid a general atmosphere of fear and mistrust.

The suspension of four players - Johnson, James Pattinson, Usman Khawaja and Shane Watson - in India for failing to follow team instructions was a fiasco for the team in the midst of a 4-0 hiding, and Lehmann said the matter should not have been allowed to reach the public eye. "From my point of view it was a case of it should have been dealt in house, and shouldn't have gotten out to be perfectly honest," he said. "But that's been dealt with and done, so we move on."

In repairing the damage caused by that episode among others, Lehmann showed an ability to relate to the various personality types within the team, as defeat in England was used as the platform for a rousing Ashes sweep at home and then another triumph in South Africa. He highlighted Johnson and Warner as examples of how to handle players differently.

"Mitchell is a beautiful quiet guy who just goes about his business, so for me it's just about keeping him up. He'll have times when he's down, but not to let him get too down on himself," he said. "Players are their own harshest critic, as you would imagine, there are times when they're going to get a rocket from me. But I'm making sure they're in a really good place to play the best cricket they can. And knowing each player, they're all different.

"I wouldn't talk to David Warner too long, because he wouldn't understand, he'd lose it. So I keep it really short for guys like that, Glenn Maxwell, and that's fine, that's when they play their best cricket. But if I have to talk to Shane Watson or Mitchell Johnson or Michael Clarke, I might take it more in depth because they'll get it easier."

Australia's most recent assignment was far from successful, as they failed to make the semi-finals of the World T20 in Bangladesh. Lehmann said he was prepared to wear that result, so long as it was learned from.

"We were riding high on the back of beating England and South Africa, and then we struggled in Bangladesh. Albeit it all of those games were winnable and we were in winning positions when we let ourselves down," he said. "That's a good learning curve for us.

"I know it's not great when you're out of the World Cup, but as long as the players learn from that, and then don't make the same mistake - I'm okay with players making mistakes, don't make it twice."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY dunger.bob on | April 30, 2014, 23:22 GMT

    @ A.S.K.: Well, I heard it, loud and clear on my TV. I think they were experimenting with cameras in the dressing room at the time. .. What can I say mate, I heard it.

  • POSTED BY BigINDFan on | April 30, 2014, 16:49 GMT

    @OttawaRocks - Agreed. NBA is way ahead on this. However since cricket is a multi-national sport with ICC having minimal to zero control on running the show. However cricket has progressed quite a bit in enforcing penalties for misconduct over the past few years.

    Aussies need to understand the difference between playing aggressively cricket vs plain rude. The unfortunate thing is other teams are also picking up on this under the guise of playing aggressive cricket.

  • POSTED BY OttawaRocks on | April 30, 2014, 9:39 GMT

    Its interesting that Sterling makes comments and loses his NBA team while Lehmann gets a slap on the wrist - a wide gulf in the standards between the 2 sports, reflecting just how far behind cricket lags.

  • POSTED BY android_user on | April 30, 2014, 9:19 GMT

    darren is great he apologized . he was a young man at that time. he is a coach now a successful coach

  • POSTED BY Sal76 on | April 30, 2014, 8:51 GMT

    @Jagger - Not sure I agree with you mate. This isn't about thin skin and freedom of speech. This is about upholding the spirit of the sport. When something is heard over the stump mic, it is an issue and the CA made a huge deal about why it was broadcast. In other words, had it not been broadcast, CA would not have made a big deal about Clarke threatening Anderson with a broken finger. I'm sure Anderson's feelings didn't give two hoots about Clarke. It was more about conduct, conduct that is contrary to the captain of a National side. Conduct that is contrary to ICC laws and conduct that is contrary to that expected of a professional. If an average office going individual was to conduct himself/herself in this manner at work, would that be acceptable? This is not about thin skin. This is about what professionals are made of, which the current Aussies aren't.

  • POSTED BY A.S.K. on | April 30, 2014, 8:35 GMT

    @dunger bob, that is a load of absolute garbage. The comments did not "come over loud and clear on TV". Boof did it loudly in the dressing room, and several SL players (not participating in the match) and the SL team officials all heard it from their dressing room. Australian team management alerted Boof to the presence of the SL team players and officials, and Boof apologised..

  • POSTED BY Jagger on | April 30, 2014, 7:28 GMT

    Alan ­Borovoy, the founder of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association says, when hurt feelings became the meas­urement of laws, it turned into a "very risky ball game. You are running a terrible risk that someone's thin skin could be the limit of someone else's free speech."

  • POSTED BY cricket_ahan on | April 30, 2014, 6:42 GMT

    @ Edward_de_Coonghe: I tend to disagree. While dozens of individuals ARE responsible for total development, I feel today's cricketers are pulled in too many directions, and this has made it more difficult for them to focus - 3 different formats, multiple local T20 tournaments, more playing teams (largely due to T20), and a myriad of fitness, mental and god-knows-what-else coaches. Things need to be simplified, and the best teams in the world today are earmarked by stand-out leaders that maintain control over the gamut of these things - MS Dhoni for India, Michael Clarke for Aus and (until recently) Graeme Smith for South Africa. The senior coach needs to maintain the same stature, and Lehmann is looking to be fitting this role at the moment.

  • POSTED BY MSDR on | April 30, 2014, 4:46 GMT

    He says he apologized and considers it the biggest mistake of his life but does not remember who the captain was!!! strange!!!

  • POSTED BY Udendra on | April 30, 2014, 4:01 GMT

    yeah, Aussies have a great history of making mistakes and "learning" :D

  • POSTED BY dunger.bob on | April 30, 2014, 23:22 GMT

    @ A.S.K.: Well, I heard it, loud and clear on my TV. I think they were experimenting with cameras in the dressing room at the time. .. What can I say mate, I heard it.

  • POSTED BY BigINDFan on | April 30, 2014, 16:49 GMT

    @OttawaRocks - Agreed. NBA is way ahead on this. However since cricket is a multi-national sport with ICC having minimal to zero control on running the show. However cricket has progressed quite a bit in enforcing penalties for misconduct over the past few years.

    Aussies need to understand the difference between playing aggressively cricket vs plain rude. The unfortunate thing is other teams are also picking up on this under the guise of playing aggressive cricket.

  • POSTED BY OttawaRocks on | April 30, 2014, 9:39 GMT

    Its interesting that Sterling makes comments and loses his NBA team while Lehmann gets a slap on the wrist - a wide gulf in the standards between the 2 sports, reflecting just how far behind cricket lags.

  • POSTED BY android_user on | April 30, 2014, 9:19 GMT

    darren is great he apologized . he was a young man at that time. he is a coach now a successful coach

  • POSTED BY Sal76 on | April 30, 2014, 8:51 GMT

    @Jagger - Not sure I agree with you mate. This isn't about thin skin and freedom of speech. This is about upholding the spirit of the sport. When something is heard over the stump mic, it is an issue and the CA made a huge deal about why it was broadcast. In other words, had it not been broadcast, CA would not have made a big deal about Clarke threatening Anderson with a broken finger. I'm sure Anderson's feelings didn't give two hoots about Clarke. It was more about conduct, conduct that is contrary to the captain of a National side. Conduct that is contrary to ICC laws and conduct that is contrary to that expected of a professional. If an average office going individual was to conduct himself/herself in this manner at work, would that be acceptable? This is not about thin skin. This is about what professionals are made of, which the current Aussies aren't.

  • POSTED BY A.S.K. on | April 30, 2014, 8:35 GMT

    @dunger bob, that is a load of absolute garbage. The comments did not "come over loud and clear on TV". Boof did it loudly in the dressing room, and several SL players (not participating in the match) and the SL team officials all heard it from their dressing room. Australian team management alerted Boof to the presence of the SL team players and officials, and Boof apologised..

  • POSTED BY Jagger on | April 30, 2014, 7:28 GMT

    Alan ­Borovoy, the founder of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association says, when hurt feelings became the meas­urement of laws, it turned into a "very risky ball game. You are running a terrible risk that someone's thin skin could be the limit of someone else's free speech."

  • POSTED BY cricket_ahan on | April 30, 2014, 6:42 GMT

    @ Edward_de_Coonghe: I tend to disagree. While dozens of individuals ARE responsible for total development, I feel today's cricketers are pulled in too many directions, and this has made it more difficult for them to focus - 3 different formats, multiple local T20 tournaments, more playing teams (largely due to T20), and a myriad of fitness, mental and god-knows-what-else coaches. Things need to be simplified, and the best teams in the world today are earmarked by stand-out leaders that maintain control over the gamut of these things - MS Dhoni for India, Michael Clarke for Aus and (until recently) Graeme Smith for South Africa. The senior coach needs to maintain the same stature, and Lehmann is looking to be fitting this role at the moment.

  • POSTED BY MSDR on | April 30, 2014, 4:46 GMT

    He says he apologized and considers it the biggest mistake of his life but does not remember who the captain was!!! strange!!!

  • POSTED BY Udendra on | April 30, 2014, 4:01 GMT

    yeah, Aussies have a great history of making mistakes and "learning" :D

  • POSTED BY Greatest_Game on | April 30, 2014, 3:56 GMT

    "I wouldn't talk to David Warner too long, because he wouldn't understand, he'd lose it."

    You just have to love honesty like that. Lehman clearly understands Warner.

  • POSTED BY on | April 30, 2014, 3:34 GMT

    Totally agree with @gilbert84.

  • POSTED BY cricketsubh on | April 30, 2014, 2:01 GMT

    lehmann need to build a team for 2015 world cup as a coach world cup win is bigger then any thing so focus on build a side for 2015 . i think he take too much focus on test cricket he need to focus on odis and t20s also

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | April 30, 2014, 0:07 GMT

    I'll be the first to admit that David Warner is a talented cricketer and has developed into a very effective Test opener. That said, I've always thought that he is a bit of a thickhead. When even his coach says as much, I'm quite prepared to stick with that assessment.

  • POSTED BY on | April 29, 2014, 23:17 GMT

    Tired of apologies for wrongdoings!!! When they say something objectionable in the heat of the moment, it is still a feeling that is imbued into the formation of their character. The Aussies are the world's worse sports, and will go to any lengths to try to gain an advantage, as winning is the only acceptable result for them.

  • POSTED BY dunger.bob on | April 29, 2014, 22:54 GMT

    You can tell when there isn't much happening anywhere in the cricket world, old stuff like this gets recycled and thank goodness for that. My interest in the IPL is minimal so at least it gives us something to talk about.. I can clearly remember the incident in question. It came over loud and clear on the the TV and was pretty cringe worthy. Definitely not one of Boofs better moments.

    Anyway I think we've all moved on from that but it's good to see he genuinely regrets it and isn't afraid to use it as an example of what not to do. Something good can come from bad things if used in the right way it seems.

  • POSTED BY ofcourse on | April 29, 2014, 20:59 GMT

    Good that he's able talk openly about his mistakes. But somehow people need to stop crediting him even an inch for the recent tour victories. No one other than Mitch deserve to take credit for the Aus test turnaround. Take him out from the team and the results in AUS and SA would have been no different from the England tour - nothing about handling team dynamics etc. would have really mattered.

  • POSTED BY Edward_de_Coonghe on | April 29, 2014, 18:05 GMT

    International cricketers are already baked brown by the time they play for their countries. The moulding of body and mind and fine tuning of their cricketing skills progress from school level. Dozens of coaches contribute to making them great. So Darren Lehmann is not the architect of Aussie success last summer. Andy Flower was made to look a superman coach for England until he was deposed unsung after the 5-0 whitewash. International cricketers need good managers, motivating gurus and physios rather than coaches.

  • POSTED BY CricketChat on | April 29, 2014, 17:39 GMT

    Good that Lehmann admitted his mistake and repented for it. It is time to move on for all concerned. Hopefully, he won't be reminded of his mistake for the rest of his life and having to keep expressing regret over and over again.

  • POSTED BY steve48 on | April 29, 2014, 14:03 GMT

    Interesting to say things should be kept in house, and then disclose that Warner and Maxwell are a bit thick, or at least hot headed! Hope they have a sense of humour, not sure I would like that info disclosed about me. That said, great work by Boof against England and South Africa, certainly despite being English I very much admired the spirit and esp the planning that went into the ashes triumph.

  • POSTED BY on | April 29, 2014, 12:50 GMT

    Man management is about understanding how each person is different and what works with him/her and acting accordingly. Despite all theories available, it needs an innate skill to do that. Obviously Arthur did not have what Lehmann has. It is too early to make a superman out of him but definitely he has been hugely successful turning around the aussie fortune past few months. Good luck to him in future!

  • POSTED BY SLMaster on | April 29, 2014, 12:47 GMT

    Good to hear that he admit even after long time. Should admir the SL team that handle these types of things as a true leader.

  • POSTED BY Aju.Nair on | April 29, 2014, 11:31 GMT

    No one is perfect in the world.Everyone will make mistake in different circumstances.But the good thing is to admit those mistake and confess in public and to teach youngsters by giving that as an example is something we should appreciate for a celebrity like Lehmann.And as a coach it is more important to understand the nature/character of players and act accordingly.that is where Arthur failed and Lehmann won.You need to back your players and always has to motivate them to believe in their abilities.Under Lehmann Aus team is improving like anything.Johnson's return to form, Maxwell magic, Bailey's form in India- all these were positive sign for Aus cricket.Now look at IPL, the players successful in the first 2 weeks are Ausees.Look at Maxwell, Starc,Johnson, Richardson and now Chirs Lynn.I am sure in the coming days Warner,Finch,Watson,Bailey also will step up and play well.So all is good for Aus cricket.Forget about that world 20 in Bangladesh.that may happen with any team.Goodspeed

  • POSTED BY latnadu on | April 29, 2014, 11:15 GMT

    most people says it is "marriage" so, strange isn't it? :D

  • POSTED BY on | April 29, 2014, 11:10 GMT

    The great thing about the guy is that he admits his mistake, and not hide it. That makes him a good teacher where he shows his mistakes to his pupils so that they too can correct them. He clearly shows that a good coach need not be a great player but a god human relations person with lots of inter personal skills.

  • POSTED BY tinkertinker on | April 29, 2014, 11:04 GMT

    Not a perfect man by any means but a tough man and a humble one who actually learns from mistakes you have to admire that.

  • POSTED BY xtrafalgarx on | April 29, 2014, 10:52 GMT

    "I wouldn't talk to David Warner too long, because he wouldn't understand, he'd lose it."

    Haha, Davey.

  • POSTED BY on | April 29, 2014, 10:46 GMT

    He's apologised, let's move on.

  • POSTED BY MarkTaffin on | April 29, 2014, 10:39 GMT

    Seems like a perfectly decent guy these days with the maturity to know individuals are all different and to manage them accordingly.

    We in England could have done/could do with the same kind of management skill.

  • POSTED BY British_North_America on | April 29, 2014, 10:35 GMT

    Yahya Khan is great.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • POSTED BY British_North_America on | April 29, 2014, 10:35 GMT

    Yahya Khan is great.

  • POSTED BY MarkTaffin on | April 29, 2014, 10:39 GMT

    Seems like a perfectly decent guy these days with the maturity to know individuals are all different and to manage them accordingly.

    We in England could have done/could do with the same kind of management skill.

  • POSTED BY on | April 29, 2014, 10:46 GMT

    He's apologised, let's move on.

  • POSTED BY xtrafalgarx on | April 29, 2014, 10:52 GMT

    "I wouldn't talk to David Warner too long, because he wouldn't understand, he'd lose it."

    Haha, Davey.

  • POSTED BY tinkertinker on | April 29, 2014, 11:04 GMT

    Not a perfect man by any means but a tough man and a humble one who actually learns from mistakes you have to admire that.

  • POSTED BY on | April 29, 2014, 11:10 GMT

    The great thing about the guy is that he admits his mistake, and not hide it. That makes him a good teacher where he shows his mistakes to his pupils so that they too can correct them. He clearly shows that a good coach need not be a great player but a god human relations person with lots of inter personal skills.

  • POSTED BY latnadu on | April 29, 2014, 11:15 GMT

    most people says it is "marriage" so, strange isn't it? :D

  • POSTED BY Aju.Nair on | April 29, 2014, 11:31 GMT

    No one is perfect in the world.Everyone will make mistake in different circumstances.But the good thing is to admit those mistake and confess in public and to teach youngsters by giving that as an example is something we should appreciate for a celebrity like Lehmann.And as a coach it is more important to understand the nature/character of players and act accordingly.that is where Arthur failed and Lehmann won.You need to back your players and always has to motivate them to believe in their abilities.Under Lehmann Aus team is improving like anything.Johnson's return to form, Maxwell magic, Bailey's form in India- all these were positive sign for Aus cricket.Now look at IPL, the players successful in the first 2 weeks are Ausees.Look at Maxwell, Starc,Johnson, Richardson and now Chirs Lynn.I am sure in the coming days Warner,Finch,Watson,Bailey also will step up and play well.So all is good for Aus cricket.Forget about that world 20 in Bangladesh.that may happen with any team.Goodspeed

  • POSTED BY SLMaster on | April 29, 2014, 12:47 GMT

    Good to hear that he admit even after long time. Should admir the SL team that handle these types of things as a true leader.

  • POSTED BY on | April 29, 2014, 12:50 GMT

    Man management is about understanding how each person is different and what works with him/her and acting accordingly. Despite all theories available, it needs an innate skill to do that. Obviously Arthur did not have what Lehmann has. It is too early to make a superman out of him but definitely he has been hugely successful turning around the aussie fortune past few months. Good luck to him in future!