July 6, 2013

What Lehmann brings to the table

He has a relaxed and old-fashioned approach, but don't be fooled into thinking he won't hold players accountable for their performances

It's amazing the difference a little momentum can make. Two weeks ago, it didn't look like this Ashes tour was going to be a positive experience for Australia. But after strong performances with bat and ball against Somerset and Worcestershire, there is a much more buoyant feeling about their chances in the Ashes series. There's always a honeymoon period when a new coach comes in, but I think Darren Lehmann has the ability to extend that period to become the norm.

As an outside observer it seems there were a lot of contributing factors that led to the Australian team not functioning as well as it should have, and not for a moment would I say Mickey Arthur was solely to blame for that. But something wasn't working and Cricket Australia deserves credit for addressing that before the series rather than during or after it. Darren's appointment is timely. It looks like a perfect scenario for someone of his character to come in and bring that team together.

I have had the good fortune of working closely with Darren and seeing him in his coaching capacity. His first official coaching appointment was at Deccan Chargers in the IPL when I was captain, and we worked closely for a few years, and most recently this year with Kings XI Punjab.

Darren creates a relaxed environment and de-stresses the players. He leads players back to the pure reasons why they play the game: enjoyment, camaraderie and enjoying each other's success.

It seems as though there are a huge amount of requests put on players outside of just playing cricket these days, especially around sports science and the way their health is monitored. Darren has the image of being the old-fashioned, beer-drinking type, but he is a smart enough guy with a wonderful cricket brain that he embraces the new and blends it in with some of those old-fashioned values. You can't just create a team environment like magic, but his approach makes it evolve naturally.

I'll always remember his first day on the job as Chargers' coach in 2009. We had an intra-squad practice game and afterwards the fitness guru asked everyone to jump in the ice bath, which was second nature to the Australians in the group but not for some of the other players. But any hesitancy they had disappeared when a naked Darren Lehmann came steaming through the change rooms and did the biggest bomb you could imagine into the ice bath, saying, "One in, all in!" It wasn't a pretty sight but it brought a lot of laughter and broke down the barriers. It also showed his commitment; he doesn't ask anything of the players that he wouldn't do himself.

He creates that sense of fun and gives the players a long leash, but with that comes accountability. If you don't adhere to the team's ethos you'll know about it in no uncertain terms. And you may not get a second chance. I'm yet to see any evidence of players taking advantage of his relaxed approach. Already we're seeing positive signs from the Australian camp under Darren. Not only has he relieved Michael Clarke of some of his burdens, he has given the players clear direction and let them know where they stand and what he expects of them.

I love the way Boof has announced ten days before the first Test that Chris Rogers and Shane Watson will open. It means there is no uncertainty. I think a lot of Australia's batting trouble started when Simon Katich was relieved of his position and Watson was flicked down the order to try to get more out of him as an all-round cricketer. Now Watson will be judged purely on his results as an opener, and it's a bonus if they get some overs out of him as a bowler. His 109 against Worcestershire was a great start.

In fact, most of the batsmen have scored valuable runs in the tour games, which would make it difficult for the selectors to pick David Warner. I had him pencilled in at No. 6 long before his suspension for the altercation with Joe Root. I just thought in this series Warner would be better served down the order. But now he hasn't played the two warm-up games, what sort of message would it send to the other batsmen who have scored runs if Warner was picked?

I expect Clarke will bat at No. 4 and I would have Steven Smith at No. 5. Whether Phillip Hughes slots in at No. 3 or No. 6, I'm not sure. Brad Haddin at No. 7 should provide a very solid foundation at the base of that batting order, and he'll launch the bottom five really well. I think Haddin was a terrific selection for this tour for everything he brings on and off the field. He deserves his spot, although Matthew Wade hasn't done anything particularly wrong.

The first one or two years for a wicketkeeper are tough. You worry about every mistake and hope that you're not judged purely on one catch or one stumping. Fortunately I was in a team environment that was successful and individually our little errors weren't really magnified. Everything has been magnified over the past couple of years, which has made it hard for Wade. But I still see a solid future for him in international cricket.

The pace-bowling attacks for Australia and England might almost cancel each other out, because both are strong groups. Graeme Swann will also be very dangerous to Australia's left-handers if any of the pitches are dry, as some were during the Champions Trophy. But I think there's some uncertainty around the England batting line-up and Australia have the chance to run with their momentum from these warm-up games.

I'm not going to predict a series result, but this first Test is a good opportunity for Australia to shake things up a bit.

Adam Gilchrist was speaking to Brydon Coverdale

Adam Gilchrist played 96 Tests for Australia as a wicketkeeper-batsman and was part of three winning Ashes campaigns

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Muralidhar on July 8, 2013, 22:02 GMT

    Great article Gilly and you deserve respect from all the cricketing nations and you are one of the greatest to play the game of cricket. From my vantage point both teams are evenly poised except England's batting looks stronger than Australia at the moment, but I see a lot of positive momentum in the Australian team and that was clearly shown in the warm up games. Bringing in Boof was a master stroke and removing Clarke from the selection panel was another good thing happened to Australian cricket. Same thing happened to India when Greg Chappel was at the helm, he's a great cricketer and one of the best cricketing brains, no doubts about that, but the team suffered a lot during his tenure and bringing in Gary was a master stroke for India and things started to change and results proven. I am all eager to see an exciting contest between these two countries.

  • David on July 8, 2013, 2:49 GMT

    I must say how refreshing it is to hear some people saying positive things about the Australian Cricket Team, and that all comes from the decision to move Micky Arthur on. I am of the belief that when it comes to Aussie Teams be it Cricket, Rugby etc, which should be sourcing Australian Coaches. I am not critical of overseas coaches, I just think it is an understanding of the Australia sportspersons mind. And saying that I am meaning when Australia are at the top or near the top of that sport. I would like people to remember one thing, when Australia were at the top in Cricket, new batsmen would come in at No. 6 no matter whether they were opener or not in domestic cricket, Border, S.Waugh, Blewett, Katich, Lehmann etc. Started at no 6 then moved to their rightful place in the order after getting used to it. So get the batting line-up settled, and start to introduce players such as Nick Maddinson, & Moises Enriquez did nothing wrong in India in such a poor environment.

  • akshay on July 7, 2013, 17:57 GMT

    @swaroop: just think what australia would have been without clarke in past 2 years.. surely worse. and it was watson who decided to bowl again after recent failures with bat.. and clarke never made negative comments about his teammates. and watson is never a captain material.. if you believe the rumours about clarkes off field leadership then there were also news that watson was involved in warner bar incident.. how can he be a good leader then??

  • Dummy4 on July 6, 2013, 23:32 GMT

    This is very positive article for Australian cricket from excellent cricketer but its very tough to beat england in england unless England players are in very complacent. England has had a lot more success in recent past Ashes series so this could be Australian time. In paper England is very strong team but cricket is funny game we never know what will happen.

  • Dummy4 on July 6, 2013, 18:18 GMT

    everybody loves gilly. australia will be in trouble till clarke remains as a captain. 3 years earlier, i stopped watching australian cricket n told my friends "australia will go down further n further". clarke is not a leader. infact he's opposite of a leader. a leader is one who gives full support to his players n brings out the best in them. clarke is trying to destroy watson career from 3 years by displacing him to places where he cant perform n injuring him by making him bowl many overs which his body cant handle. watson is a batting destroyer.. his occasional bowling is just an plus.he's not a full time bowler.clarke always made -ve comments on his players in almost all press conferences."steve waugh or ricky or gilly never made a -ve statement on his players" australia will never go to top till clarke remains as captain n moreover he's destroying worlds 2nd most powerful batsmen shane behind gayle. only when watson captains australia,they'll rise up.

  • Gopalakrishna on July 6, 2013, 16:41 GMT

    Gilly, Australia your time was invincible team and very successful. There is nothing that succeeds than success. In my openion the Ausie teams you played were never overly dependent on coachs, as they never do any on field duties. All you had in your team was great players with great competitiveness in them. That brought success to old Ausie teams. Even a mediacore coach would have lead those bunch of great players you had to world beating side and that is whay happened. But now things changed mate, no more Australia has batsmen like you, Waughs, Heydan, Langer, Martin etc and bowlers like Glen, Gillepse and most notably Wanre. That said even today's team has greate players in Ausie team like Watson, Clarke and patinson, Starc, Siddle etc, but you folks are very badly missing one top class spinner and you have not focused there. I very strongly believe we should give a chance to Warne like players to develope best class spinners and wold would again watch Ausie team with raw awe.

  • Allan on July 6, 2013, 15:59 GMT

    I can't talk highly enough of boof, you can see the team is coming together as one already. And boof is letting folks bat where they are best, Watson is opening, Khawaja is our best 3 and top scored in the first warm up and should play there in the first test, Hughes has slotted in well at 5 and Clarke moves up to 4, all great moves by boof. And he is bringing the team together.

  • Phil on July 6, 2013, 15:51 GMT

    @barnsey444 i suggest you read fleming_mitch's comments. Hughes has been exposed badly before agianst swing bowling, its best to keep him away from that where he will face it at 3. The innings you suggest that he did at 21 was very good but it was before the bowlers worked him out. Best to have either Khawaja or Warner at 3, i am suggesting Khawaja as he has done it succcessfully for his shield side and is one of our better players of swing bowling. Hughes at 5 will do well with Clarke at 4. Both Khawaja and Hughes are the future of our batting, just need to have them batting at their best spots. Long term i see Khawaja as our 3 and Hughes as our opener.

  • Brenton on July 6, 2013, 15:41 GMT

    Hughes at 3, he will fill that role long-term. He has the ability to make regular centuries and can flay the best bowlers on his day. Just watch how he smashed Steyn, Morkel and Kallis as a 21 year old before "coaches" got to him. Boof will encourage that natural flair and Hughes will flourish under him.