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Lehmann's cultural remedy for Australia

Daniel Brettig in Taunton

June 24, 2013

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Darren Lehmann and Michael Clarke during a press conference, Bristol, June 24, 2013
Darren Lehmann has said the enjoyment factor is important for his players © Getty Images
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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

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Posted by Thefakebook on (June 28, 2013, 18:28 GMT)

I got a simple question here,"WHY is it such a big taboo for the OZs to play two genuine spinners?" I mean give Agar a go as well.3 seamers with a Watson should be enough pace arsenal then Lyon or Ahmed can be the second spinner.I'm sure Swann and Monty will both play together regularly in the whole series.Agar can hold his own with the bat take 2 or 3 wkts regularly,in short he is all O'Keefe never will got to be at the highest level.

Posted by   on (June 26, 2013, 11:54 GMT)

I think Aussies will progress lot better under DL[FUN-LOVING] as a coach compared 2 Aurthur who was more of a copy-book coach. DL has always been magnanimous as evident in his playing days when he made way for youngsters even in his peak days as a player. i think clarke should take a cue from DL when it comes 2 supporting his players. U cant spk publicly against ur players as he did against warner after d pub episode chiding him saying-this is not a ipl team,as if one is allowed 2 have a brawl there. i think watson would have been a better choice as a skipper.

Posted by   on (June 26, 2013, 10:11 GMT)

Gone are the days of "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if Lillee does not get you, Thompson must" Now for Australia is a case of again rising from the ashes. But history tells us that often those who take out those in ashes are often ignored. Hope that will not happen to new coach.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (June 26, 2013, 10:07 GMT)

@ozwrite, to a point you are correct however, Lehmann hasnt had any input into the squad in England, but we could see a swing in the Winter tour down under away from the 'favorites', I suspect we'll see a lot more of usman khawaja this summer possibly at first or second drop, rather than Hughes.

I also suspect Agar may be prefered over Lyon at somepoint.

Posted by ozwriter on (June 26, 2013, 9:37 GMT)

lehmann is going to select on talent and form, not on favourtism and being the coach/captains pet. "We want to pick the best side each and every time". this must be worrying news for 'hughesy', 'wadey' and 'eddie'. surely they should be nowhere near the first XI team.

Posted by Kulaputra on (June 26, 2013, 9:33 GMT)

The moment you said fun, DL, you have a place in my heart. Cricket is played for fun and a coach is the vehicle you use to go to the stadium.

if DL can make sure cricket is played for fun, Aussie cricket has a bright future.

Posted by anver777 on (June 26, 2013, 9:33 GMT)

Let's see whether Lehmann's regime can do any changes with this nose diving Aus team..... Ashes is a big test for him !!!!!!!

Posted by   on (June 26, 2013, 9:24 GMT)

Listen to what Ian Chappel said in his interview to Espncricinfo and I totally agree with him that is, the coach doesn't bat, bowl or field its the Cricketers and most importantly if these are the bunch of guys who have played hell a lot of domestic cricket and got a lot of exposure, then why should they lose? Its not right to say that Australia is weak and don't have the players who can match the calibre of Ponting or Hussey or Langer or Waugh! Rather identify the players who look promising and think about their country first and then IPL...

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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