Lehmann's cultural remedy for Australia
Australia's new coach Darren Lehmann has pushed the importance of fun and a balanced perspective on life to remedy a team culture that has variously been described as toxic, insular, selfish, undisciplined, and just plain stupid. Lehmann has openly desired the national coaching job for quite some time, but given that it has fallen into his lap a mere two weeks before the first Investec Ashes Test, his initial message to the touring team could not afford to be elaborate.
Upon the squad's arrival in the medieval town centre of Taunton, Lehmann sat down his players and staff to set out a simple but clear direction for the Australian team, both on the field and off it. Relieving the tension of the past few days in Bristol and London was high on Lehmann's list of priorities, while also ensuring focus shifted instantly to Wednesday's tour match against Somerset.
"Hopefully with the enjoyment factor, we'll get that going for a start," Lehmann said of the culture he wished to create. "When you start winning games you have a lot of fun so we need to start winning some games, simple as that. It's about getting all the lads and everyone in a direction we want to go. We're going one way and that is forward and everything starts afresh.
"It's about life as well, it's a game of cricket. It's important we have success and play well but it's a small part of your life, so we've got to make sure we are helping them grow their lives on and off the ground, that is really important to me. Family is a big part of it, enjoying each other's company while we're away, and learning about ourselves and different cultures and different people we have in the team.
"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a job I loved and wanted to do because I fell in love with coaching the first day I started with an IPL franchise. It just probably happened in different circumstances that it comes across my path right now."
That path will now include grappling with the various complications of mentoring a national team in 2013, including the influx of Twenty20 money that has muddled the priorities of numerous young players. The absolutes of Lehmann's time, as a player who had to carve out nigh on 10,000 first-class runs before making his Test debut, have been replaced by greys like the lavish IPL money on offer to cricketers who have not yet grooved their games.
When referring to numerous matters of club versus state versus country issues, Australia's team performance manager Pat Howard remarked last summer that "no-one owns the players now". Lehmann though spoke with typical confidence about sculpting the natural talent at his disposal into competitive, thoughtful and loyal cricketers.
"The priority for us is Australia, that's every player that is playing any form, their first right is with Australia," Lehmann said. "We want to pick the best side each and every time and we'll worry about the other franchises and issues as we go through.
"We're guided by CA and selectors along the way and that's part and parcel of being a new-age cricketer. One thing I will say, they're a lot better athletes that I was in my day and it's just about teaching them and coaching them the best way to play the game in different situations."
Brad Haddin, Australia's vice-captain, said Lehmann's imprint on the team should soon be evident, starting with the respect he already engendered for his playing career and domestic coaching. "Darren's got experience at all levels, as a player, a successful coach and a good person, and he's known for that around Australian cricket and world cricket," He said. "I think he'll come into this environment comfortable with where he's at and comfortable with where he wants to take the team."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here