Langer to stand in for Lehmann next year
Western Australia coach Justin Langer will get his first taste of life as the national team's coach when Darren Lehmann avoids the West Indies next year to plan for the challenge of overseas success that stands between his side and the stamp of genuine quality.
Lehmann will be spared from a triangular ODI series that will also feature West Indies and South Africa in the Caribbean in mid-2016. He will resume coaching duties for the tour of Sri Lanka, which looms as a staging post on the way to the goal of unseating India at home in 2017.
That means a chance for Langer to work as interim mentor - Lehmann has made no secret of his admiration for a former team-mate, though it will be up to the team performance chief Pat Howard whether Langer, who also coaches Perth Scorchers, will be the next coach.
During his break Lehmann will spend time at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane, looking at the next tier of players underneath the ODI squad and also formulating plans for Sri Lanka and beyond. After the humiliation of this year's Ashes tour, Lehmann is aware that his partnership with Steven Smith will be assessed on overseas assignments, starting with New Zealand and Sri Lanka either side of the World Twenty20 in India.
"That's still a burning desire," Lehmann said of winning the Ashes in England. "I think we let ourselves down this year, 2013 was a different scenario where we were changing the whole setup, last time was disappointing and you'd love to have a crack at that, but you're guided by results along the way, can't look that far away.
"I'd love us to win on the subcontinent for a start and play better there. The T20 is another one … we're trying to be the most dynamic side we can be in terms of making sure we can play in all conditions.
"You'll only see that when we go away I suppose, New Zealand's going to be different to Australia, the wickets will seam a lot more, then you've got to go to Sri Lanka where they'll spin, so we've got to make them play all round so they can play in all conditions."
A part of the plan for extended success is to ensure members of the team, whether players, coaches or support staff, are not burned out by a packed schedule. After the ongoing West Indies series, Australia play five ODIs and three T20s at home against India, before the Test and ODI trip to New Zealand, a brief T20 journey to South Africa, the World T20, the Caribbean, Sri Lanka, more ODIs in South Africa then the home summer.
Lehmann twice allowed substitutes to take his place as coach - Steve Rixon took the reins in India for an ODI tour prior to the 2013-14 Ashes sweep, and Trevor Bayliss shepherded the T20 side against South Africa the following year when Lehmann and the Test team were in transit from the UAE. He admitted he could have done with a break after the dual tours of the West Indies and England this year, too.
"Looking back now, the end of the Ashes campaign and the one day series I was pretty much cooked," Lehmann said. "You can't go that long in a run as such. Summer's easy at home, it's fantastic at home all the time, but when you're on tour that was four and a half months in the end. You've got to make sure you're fresh as best you can, whatever coach it is. We're always trying to give our coaches or support staff a break.
"You probably have to think about the timing of it more than anything, and it gives me a chance to see the next rung of players as well in the system. For me it's a case of working with the younger guys and staying in Brisbane with those NCC boys and seeing what's coming through as well. So it won't be a total break but it will be a break from the day to day travelling."
Granted an extension following the home Ashes in 2014, Lehmann is under contract to CA until 2017. He has always stated that being national coach is not a long-term commission, and Langer's re-entry to the system after serving as assistant to Tim Nielsen and Mickey Arthur between 2009 and 2012 is a significant moment.
"I haven't got any date in mind, hopefully I'll go for a while yet," Lehmann said. "I don't think you can do it long, long term, you're away 300 days a year. You've got to find a happy medium, try to tick off all the boxes you want to as a coach, and hopefully if you've achieved them it's someone else's term.
"I've got some things I want to tick the boxes off as a coach, and players have to become better as we're always trying to do anyway. I think we've got a pretty good system at the moment, we seem to be playing reasonably well, that's a pleasing thing. Now it's a case of developing other coaches under you all the time to make sure they get opportunities as well."
Since taking over the Western Australia job in 2012, Langer has overseen the regeneration of a once moribund state into one of the nation's most consistent Sheffield Shield teams while also winning silverware of the 50-over and T20 varieties. A Shield victory after two losing final appearances is high on his list of priorities, but so too is a return to the national team's staff.
"Given the amount of cricket coming up on the international calendar, we've tried to find some time for Darren to plan and focus on the next period for the Australian side," Howard said. "Justin Langer has done an outstanding job, taking his teams to the finals of our three domestic competitions last year, and winning two of them.
"He's also done a very good job preparing WA players to represent Australia. This appointment to cover the limited-overs series in the Caribbean is a great reward for that excellent work."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig