June 30, 2013

Replacing the coach is fine, but what about the batting?

Lehmann can tell his charges not to do England any more favours, but the players have to win games by themselves

First as a player then as captain, I always felt that Australia would receive at least one "favour" from England during an Ashes series. That favour generally came in the form of a strange selection; either the inclusion of an England player who we were happy to play against, or the exclusion of one - John Snow in 1974-75, for instance - that delighted us.

However, in the lead up to this Ashes series, the boot is on the other foot. Australia have "helped" England by way of some poor lead-up results, player suspensions and misbehaviour, and eventually the sacking of coach Mickey Arthur.

Such drastic action so close to an Ashes series could be seen as a panic move but the elevation of Darren Lehmann to the coach's role may be one of few recent decisions emanating from Cricket Australia that actually makes sense.

It had probably reached a stage where Cricket Australia decided the team was going to lose with Arthur in charge, so there was no downside in dumping him on the eve of a crucial series. As an American baseball manager once said to a player who was demanding more money: "We're losing with you, we can sure as hell lose without you."

To understand why this dramatic decision has caused such a furore in Australia and brought unbridled joy to all of England, onlookers need to realise the ferocity of this long-standing rivalry. It's probably best encapsulated in a story concerning one of England's finest captains, and undoubtedly their most controversial, Douglas Jardine.

Jardine, with his hardline but well thought out strategy of utilising Bodyline to restrict the run scoring of Don Bradman, left an indelible mark on the Ashes in 1932-33.

In 1954 a young Peter May was named in the England squad to tour Australia later that year. The following day May entered the Surrey dressing room at The Oval, where an elderly gentleman invited him over. "Son," he began, "I believe you've just been chosen to tour Australia."

"Yes sir," May replied proudly, "I'm hoping to do well and represent my country with honour."

"Don't worry about that," the older man exploded, "just beat the ***kers."

The elderly gentleman was none other than Jardine.

The spirit of those words still reverberate in England, and hence the joyful sniggering as Australia lurch from one crisis to another.

While Lehmann will immediately command the players' respect and has already brought some much-needed common sense to the squad with his decision to open with Shane Watson, the coach doesn't make any runs or take any wickets. Michael Clarke and his team are the only ones who can turn around their recent fortunes and, with an improved performance, give Australian fans hope that the Ashes series is not a lost cause.

Many a player has felt positive and strong sitting in a hotel lounge, listening to a rousing speech. The problem comes the next day when, under intense scrutiny, he actually has to find a way to score runs against the swing of a Jimmy Anderson and the guile of a Graeme Swann. Even a confidence-boosting net session isn't the complete answer. It's only when a player actually gets out in the middle and scores runs against Anderson and Swann that he finally feels comfortable in his own mind that success is a possibility.

What has sustained Australian hopes throughout this rough patch has been the confidence inspired by a strong pace attack. This is not unrealistic, because putting together a viable attack - one capable of taking 20 wickets economically - is the toughest task in cricket.

However, no matter the strength of the Australian attack, they can't conjure up victory without considerable help from the batsmen. That's where the big improvement must come from.

Despite the good cricketing sense behind the change to Lehmann, he can't help the players once they are in the middle. About the best words he can offer the team as they leave the dressing room are either a choice of Jardine's refrain, or "Don't do the opposition any favours."

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 2, 2013, 21:23 GMT

    I wonder what ChappellI thinks of having Lehman batting at 5 and bowling his gentle left-arm finger spinners (occasionally)? Would Australia do worse by using someone else there?

    And how about the other Australian Captain (Bailey) batting at 6?

  • Pasenadee on July 2, 2013, 8:34 GMT

    At this level you probably don't need a coach. You are an elite athlete at international level. A manager is probably a better term for coach's and what Australia is suffering from is not really a coaching issue. It's a lack of leadership. A leader of men to inspire and take charge and be accountable for his actions and take responsibility for his team. A man that his peers can look up to for guidance and support. Australia have decent enough players to win games. They just need a captain to take charge and make them play as a team and perform as individuals.

  • Rahul on July 2, 2013, 0:58 GMT

    I have faith that our young guns(i.e Khawaja, Warner, Maddinson) who were not shining under Arthur will do well under boof and provide the world class batsman we have been looking for.

  • stuart on July 1, 2013, 20:06 GMT

    wont need any change of batting.That bowling attack will defeat England before they even lead the changing room. Already people are talking about the strength of this line up. No one can live with them. They only need ten runs a game and England will crumple for less each time. You Aussies paid attention to your recent history?

  • Android on July 1, 2013, 5:35 GMT

    Yaa! its true that Ausies only consuntrate there batting department after all they are look like prety good in others departments

  • Allan on July 1, 2013, 5:24 GMT

    I just think its fantastic boof has taken over as coach, a great left handed batsman who used to get centuries in shiel cricket with his eyes close and would have played more had there not been a golden era going on. Now his experience will be invaluable for the likes of Warner, Khawaja, Wade and other young lefties who can benefit so much from his experience. Expect these young left handers to really shine under him.

  • Android on July 1, 2013, 5:17 GMT

    Aus facing their wrost time in their cricket history. In this Aus team there is lack of test batsman.They have to think about their batting line up against swinging star Anderson.

  • Lewis on July 1, 2013, 4:48 GMT

    @tickcrick agree 100% mate and i think he will come in especially after he top scored in the last innings of the warm up.

  • Lewis on July 1, 2013, 4:46 GMT

    I think our batting will be sorte under boof who can actually coach the players unlike Arthur. I'd like to see Lyon play the Worcs match…we are coming out well for him at the moment so it's important to keep that momentum going. Unlike some of the paceman he won't benefit from a rest.But there isn't really place for him because we need to have one last good look at our pace options. Pattinson is the only guaranteed starter at the moment.

    Against Worcs: 1. Rogers 2. Watson 3. Khawaja 4. Clarke 5. Hughes 6. Smith 7. Haddin 8. Starc 9. Siddle 10. Harris 11. Bird

    Watson will continue to do well at opening, its where he belongs, Khawaja is the best number 3 in the squad and Clarke moves up to 4 which should have been done a year ago.

  • Cricket on July 1, 2013, 4:28 GMT

    Chappel is right. You can't teach these grown-ups how to play! You just need "respect and has already brought some much-needed common sense".