Lehmann removed anxiety - Haddin
Australia's vice-captain Brad Haddin has credited coach Darren Lehmann with eliminating anxiety from the change room and allowing captain Michael Clarke to focus his attention on the on-field battle that led to Australia's Ashes clean sweep. Haddin, who also quashed retirement rumours, said all the "nervous energy" had disappeared from within the squad in the lead-up to this series, and this was a key factor in the triumph.
Prior to the first Test at the Gabba, Haddin said the previous coach Mickey Arthur had been "very, very insecure" in the role, which he believed had contributed to a poor atmosphere in the camp. After the 5-0 success was secured in Sydney, Haddin said the turnaround from the 3-0 defeat in England, when Lehmann had only just taken over on the eve of the series, had been in part down to the difference in feeling in the change rooms.
"I think Michael's always been an outstanding tactician," Haddin said. "He reads the game as well as anyone you can play with. I think what Darren and his staff have done is take the anxiety out of the change room. And all the nervous energy. We can just get on and do our job and Michael can do his without having to worry about anything else.
"I think our preparation was spot on. There was no anxiety leading in to the first Test. Everyone was relaxed and knew exactly where they stood. We knew what our team was a long way out, going in to this campaign, so we could prepare to play Test cricket, not look over our shoulders and worry about what was going on. We could prepare for this series and give it the respect it deserved. It was a massive test for us, that first Test match."
Haddin has epitomised the aggressive style of play the Australians have favoured in this series, his counterattacking with the bat rescuing the team from trouble in all five first innings. Attack has also been the key for the bowlers, with Mitchell Johnson's pace and accuracy making life uncomfortable for England's batsmen, while Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle never gave an inch.
"We've played the brand of cricket that Australians expect and that we expect as a group," Haddin said. "I think that's been pretty evident watching from the sideline. I've been ultra impressed with the way our fast bowlers have gone about it. There have been no places to hide. Once they've been five down it's been uncomfortable.
"And at times [it would have been] outright scary, trying to stand in front of these guys takes a lot of courage. From that point of view I'm happy with where it's all at. We're playing the Australian brand of cricket now. Darren and all his staff can take a lot of credit for that. We're getting back to enjoying our cricket and enjoying being Australians and playing our way."
Johnson was presented with the Compton-Miller Medal as Player of the Series but Haddin must have been strongly considered, given his outstanding work with bat and gloves throughout the campaign. In future it may appear surprising that Haddin did not even earn a Man of the Match award in any of the five Tests, but his contribution to the 5-0 result was incalculable.
It was all the more remarkable given that Haddin was not considered the first-choice wicketkeeper less than a year ago, when Matthew Wade was viewed as the long-term option behind the stumps. However, Haddin's return as vice-captain for the Ashes in England proved a shrewd move by the selectors - who included Arthur at the time - and he has shown that age is irrelevant to what a player can offer the team.
A few days ago, rumours began to circulate at the SCG that Haddin would bow out after the Sydney Test, content to end on the high of a 5-0 Ashes victory and spend more time with his family, including his daughter Mia, who is in remission from cancer. But Haddin said he had no retirement plans and still intended to play on until the 2015 World Cup, although he stopped short of saying he wanted to play in the next Ashes series in England later that year.
"I'm very clear where I want to go," he said. "I've said all along that I'd like to play along to the World Cup. From a cricket point of view I probably haven't played as much cricket as guys my age. A lot of guys my age would've played 250 first-class games. I'm enjoying it at the moment. As long as I'm still challenging myself and things are going in the right direction at home I'll play as long as I'm enjoying it and contributing to this team being the team we want to be.
"I'm 36, I can't hide behind the fact that that's my age. But from a cricket point of view I also started a lot later at Test cricket than most ... And I've had some time away from the game, so from that point of view I feel in a good place about my cricket. I'm enjoying being part of this team and what we're trying to create moving forward."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here