England v Australia, 5th Investec Test, The Oval August 21, 2013

Lehmann fires, but misses the point

Instead of trying to rattle the England players, Australia's coach should focus on the issues in his own team

Cheating is okay, just not if it's too blatant. That, essentially, is the crux of Darren Lehmann's argument. Actually, calling it an argument is too generous, for it implies a measure of reason. Posturing, that's what it was. Using a blokey interview on a blokey Australian radio station to appeal to Aussie blokes. Let's all have a laugh and call them cheating Poms. Let's get stuck into Stuart Broad when England come to Australia. Sledge him from the stands, fellas.

It is hard to imagine that Lehmann would have called Broad a cheat had he been in a press conference full of English reporters. But Triple M is a radio station that has a way of making sportsmen feel they're among mates. It was on Triple M that Matthew Hayden called Harbhajan Singh a "little obnoxious weed" in 2008, and it was on Triple M that Andrew Symonds referred to Brendon McCullum as "a lump of shit" in 2009.

Both men faced Cricket Australia disciplinary action for "detrimental public comment"; Hayden was reprimanded, Symonds fined $4000. Cricket Australia has no choice but to report Lehmann for a Code of Conduct breach, for calling an opponent a cheat is nothing if not detrimental. It is also ridiculous. "That was just blatant cheating," Lehmann said of Broad's failure to walk at Trent Bridge. "I don't advocate walking but when you hit it to first slip it's pretty hard."

So on the one hand, Lehmann doesn't generally believe players should walk. But on the other, he calls Broad a cheat for... not walking? Broad knew he edged that delivery off Ashton Agar. But Brad Haddin knew he tickled behind off James Anderson later in the same match. It took an England review to have that match-winning decision given. David Warner knew he edged when he hooked at Broad in Manchester and England's review failed as Hot Spot did not show evidence.

Ah, but Broad's cheating was blatant. Cheat a bit more convincingly and that's acceptable in Lehmann's world. Of course, none of these men are cheats, for players are under no obligation to walk. Not to mention that Broad's edge, while thick, was not to slip - it deflected there off Haddin's gloves. Double standards aside, perhaps Lehmann thought that it would be good to get inside the heads of the England players. Shake things up a bit.

"Certainly our players haven't forgotten, they're calling him everything under the sun as they go past," Lehmann said. And how has that worked out, Boof? A match-winning 11-wicket haul at Chester-le-Street? A better series batting average after the fourth Test than Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith, Haddin or Ed Cowan? Yes, Broad is clearly shaken by all those stinging remarks.

Perhaps instead of trying to rattle the England players, Lehmann should ensure his own players don't feel flustered. At 0-3 down in an Ashes series, with another one on the horizon, that has to be his focus. How, exactly, are young batsmen like Hughes and Khawaja supposed to feel comfortable at the crease when they fear for their place? Lehmann is one of the selectors responsible for changing the batting order in every Test on this tour.

What must Hughes, Khawaja and Cowan think now that a bowling allrounder has been picked at No. 7? How must the players have felt when the coach said after the loss in Chester-le-Street - where Australia had been very competitive, mind you - that careers would be on the line at The Oval? Can you imagine a respected mentor like Andy Flower or Gary Kirsten making such statements? Can you imagine them calling an opponent a cheat for not walking?

From the surprise selection of Ashton Agar from outside the official squad in the first Test to the constant shuffling of the batting order to the inclusion of James Faulkner at The Oval to the comments on Broad, Lehmann has tried to keep England on the hop throughout this series, tried to keep them guessing. He needs to forget that and worry about his own men, give them some self-belief instead of misguidedly attempting to shake the confidence of the England players.

"If they don't learn we will find blokes that will," Lehmann said of his players after the fourth Test. It is to be hoped Lehmann, on his first tour as an international coach, learns from his mistakes as well.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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