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July 1, 2013

Australia in England 2013

Boof Lehmann, top bloke

Matt Cleary
"Yes, of course you can belch a ball away"  © Getty Images
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In long-ago 1999, I took some Scottish mates to the fine old English town of Worcester for the Scotland versus Australia World Cup pool match. Top little England cricket ground at Worcester: church steeples by the banks of the Severn, English oak trees, quaint things, ye olde stuff.

Whatever the appeal of the town, I had to convince my Scottish mates to come along. They were no fans of cricket. Indeed it would not be overstating things to say that they hated the game, equating it to all things effete and English, the people who invaded their villages and stole their horses, or other things from Olden Times.

That said, the lads did rather like dressing up in kilts and painting their faces, and drinking a lot of beer, and singing songs, and leaping about. So we took a train from London for a couple of days' "craic" in Worcester. And there we sang songs and leapt about, and camped in tents by the river. And they were very good times.

Early to the ground the next day, the "traditionally" kilted Scots welcomed the Australian team bus in the traditional manner: by raising their kilts and revealing more of Scotland than the Australian players perhaps expected to see by the banks of the Severn in Worcester. On the bus I saw Shane Warne shaking his head and Ricky Ponting laughing his fit to fall off.

And so into the ground and the toss, and Steve Waugh put Scotland in to bat, and there was much lamenting. It was the right "cricket" decision: attack the minnows and blow them away. But for spectators it killed the game stone motherless. Despite opener BMW "Bruce" Patterson driving Damien Fleming's first ball for four, spectators largely had to amuse themselves.

There was applause when Scotland reached 25. There was singing and there was dancing. And there was Darren Lehmann, at fine leg, positioned in front of my Scottish mates on the boundary.

"Oi! Lemon!" they yelled repeatedly until Darren turned around and copped three Scotsman lifting their kilts to say hello in the traditional manner. When Lehmann laughed, shook his head and covered his eyes, he'd won the crowd for the day.

After the game - won by six wickets by Australia, chasing 182 - we bedraggled Australian backpackers and kilted interlopers somehow got into the members bar of Worcester County Cricket Club. I still don't know how. We just wandered and there we were amongst the ties and blazers and gentlemen of Worcester, who included the CEO of British Telecom, who then shouted us drinks for several hours. Good times.

And then came the only Australian player who didn't take an alternate route behind the bar to avoid the Great Unwashed - Boof Lehmann, still in his cricket kit, drinking a beer to celebrate his contribution to Australia's chase, bowled for a golden duck. We Australians baled him up and filled his pockets with good cheer. Then one of our Scottish mates came over. We introduced him to Darren, who outstretched his hand to shake, and was confronted by the undercarriage of a Scotsman's kilt raised in the traditional manner.

"Have we met?" asked Darren in the stunned silence, and it's not putting too fine a point on it to say there was mass hilarity. And so the CEO chap continued to buy us beers and we kept bending Darren's ear about his "innings", and some Scotsmen found a small amount of admiration for the grand old game and the players therein.

All of which is a giant Canberra roundabout way of saying that Darren Lehmann appears a good choice for Australian cricket coach. Firstly, he's Australian. And the older I get the more I think the national team of any country needs a coach from that country. But mainly because Lehmann, you see, comes across as a Good Bloke. Perhaps even a Top Bloke. And that's just about the biggest salute Australian men will give another man. "Boofa? Mate - Top Bloke."

Mickey Arthur? Top coach, top cricket mind. Not a Top Bloke. Mickey seemed more your school principal or scoldy schoolteacher. And not just because of the Homework Thing. Well, probably mainly because of that. Whatever. There'd be chaps (Dave Warner) in the team who wouldn't have had much truck with school. And others (Shane Watson) who didn't appreciate being upped for the rent by Pat Howard of Rugby.

Boof, however, seems to have the right combination of Older Brother and Top Bloke but also Stern But Respected Uncle who'll give the young 'uns a proverbial toe up the backside if required. They reckon there's no getting to meetings or training late on Boof's watch, a man not afraid to up chaps for rent. Our Watto will take it better from a peer and respected uncle.

Hopefully he'll also teach some of them to bat. Because ultimately, whatever the rights and wrongs of Mickey Arthur's tenure, and all the malarkey about informed player management or whatever Howard and his sports science boffins decreed we call Rotation, Arthur was punted because blokes expected to score runs did not.

The pace attack? Very good. Arguably just as good as England's, which is world-class. The spinner will hold up an end and float up his offies. But the batsmen, particularly the top order, have been, well, how might we put this in a traditional Australian manner… well… they have been shithouse.

You can't have that and win Test matches. Boof Lehmann - Top Bloke - would know that. Good luck to him. He may need it.

Matt Cleary writes for several Australian sports and travel magazines. He tweets here

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Keywords: Coaching

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by dunger.bob on (July 3, 2013, 4:55 GMT)

As much as it disturbs me, I think the author is right about national cricket teams needing coaches from their own countries. It seems sort of xenophobic at first glance, but the more I think about, the more I agree. ... On this site there is a fair amount of advice from the Poms that we should play more like them. .. well, we can't. We can't play like South Africa or India either. Or the WI or anybody else. .. we can only play like Aussies, whatever that actually means. .. For 130 years we have been developing our own way of playing the game and it's taught to every kid from the moment they step onto the field for the first time. By the time you get to Shield level, it's deeply ingrained. .. you can't expect a foreign coach to understand all the cultural nuances that go along with it. ..

@ Meety: What about Boofs "have we met" line to the flashing Scotsman? Classic or what?

Posted by Meety on (July 2, 2013, 4:22 GMT)

love the last sentence of the 2nd last paragraph! very Ozzy!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Cleary
Matt Cleary reckons he watched more of the 1978-79 Ashes series than any eight-year-old. Despite this punishment - Geoff Boycott batting for days - Cleary was hooked. As a journalist he's written about sport, travel, beer, wine, swimming with stingrays in the Alice waters of Bora Bora, and touring Australia on a four-month lap, playing golf. Yet he counts doing ball-by-ball commentary for ESPNcricinfo as the most fun he's had with a keyboard. He writes for several of Australia's sports and travel magazines, notably Inside Sport, Inside Cricket, Golf Australia and Rugby League Week. @JournoMatCleary

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