Warne queries Lehmann authority
Shane Warne has delivered a pointed critique of Australia's coach Darren Lehmann, suggesting he has gone beyond his station in running the team and arguing that the territory of the captain Michael Clarke has been impinged upon.
Though this is not the first time Warne and Lehmann have been at opposing points of view, the former legspinner's words that his erstwhile Australian team-mate might have forgotten the right dynamic between captain and coach is bound to generate discussion given his closeness to Clarke.
Arguing that Lehmann had perhaps taken too much credit for the Australian team's recent successes, Warne also intimated that the coach had the major say in the timing of the stand-in captain Steven Smith's conservative declaration on the final morning of the Boxing Day Test against India in Melbourne.
"It was Michael Clarke who taught them how to win. Darren Lehmann has come in and put a bit of icing on the cake, he's actually complemented Michael Clarke," Warne told the Sydney radio show Allrounders. "He's got to be a little bit careful that he's got to stop walking out on the MCG and declaring. He's got to remember that's the captain's job not the coach's job.
"Darren Lehmann understands the game of cricket. He's a good man manager, and he's got to remember what it was like when he played and what the coaches were like. The captain is in charge and it's something Australian cricket has to look at it with the way they want to do things - who is in charge."
Warne's intimation that the balance of power between captain and coach was something "Australian cricket has to look at" will create a stir among those who were close to the team in early 2013. At the time, Warne was a strident critic of Lehmann's predecessor Mickey Arthur and the team performance manager Pat Howard. He took his concerns to Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland early in the year, and after disastrous campaigns in India and at the Champions Trophy, Arthur was replaced.
That decision was a major shock to Clarke, who had grown close to Arthur, and Lehmann subsequently allowed Warne plenty of time around the team on the 2013 Ashes tour as the new coach sought to build a relationship with his captain. It was a strategic decision that worked well in the short term, as a united team won the Ashes back at home before beating South Africa away.
More recently however, Clarke has been at a distance from the national selection panel, on which Lehmann is an influential member, over his best path of recovery from back and hamstring problems. The issue was put to one side following the death of Phillip Hughes but reared again after the selectors set a tight deadline for Clarke's return from hamstring surgery - he was to play in Saturday's match against Bangladesh until weather intervened.
"I get that he polarises people. I suppose I can relate to it," Warne said. "I think with Michael Clarke ... perception doesn't always equal reality. I look at what Michael Clarke has done over the last few years, not just in recent times, but over the last few years and where Australian cricket was when we lost to India 4-0, we had Mickey Arthur coaching the team, the team in disarray, there was people getting sent home for not doing homework, there was all sorts of garbage and rubbish going on.
"If we didn't have Michael Clarke at that stage making our runs we would have lost everything and we would hardly have won a game. If you think of all the players who have played under Michael Clarke over the last few years and what he has instilled into them, he kept declaring, he taught them how to win. It wasn't anybody else, it was Michael Clarke who taught them how to win."
On the afternoon before the Allan Border Medal ceremony in Sydney, Sutherland met with Clarke to reassure him of his place as Australia's Test and ODI captain for the foreseeable future. This week, Lehmann decried Warne's suggestion that the fitness deadline had been intended to "break" Clarke as "rubbish", before the captain clarified on Friday.
"I've always supported Warney, he's been a big supporter of mine and he is a good friend," Clarke said. "I think Shane might have been taken out of context with what he said the other day because I've obviously spoken to him since then. I think what he was trying to say is the medical staff have pushed me to the limit, which is a great thing.
"Alex Kountouris made it very clear to me from my [first] day of rehab that we were going to push as hard as we can to make sure that whatever you have to do come game day, you've done it, your body's been through it and you can handle it. I think Warney was trying to say that."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig