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August 26, 2013
Australia must improve and so too, by his own admission, does their coach Darren Lehmann. In the aftermath of a 3-0 series defeat that ended with an ICC fine for too readily taking the bait thrown by England fast bowler Stuart Broad, Lehmann said he had learned much from his first international assignment, including the fact that even a "jovial" radio interview back home can ping around the world if he does not choose his words more wisely.
Lehmann arrived in the job only two weeks before the start of the Ashes bout, and while he has been credited with lifting Australia's team spirit and preaching an aggressive, flair-filled brand of the game, he has been unable to bring about the lift of standards required for the team to win a Test match. They have now gone nine Tests without singing the team song, and as Lehmann acknowledged his error in responding to Broad, he also spoke of unearthing a "winning attitude".
"It was a good learning curve for a new coach, wasn't it?" Lehmann said. "You know, a jovial setting but you've got to learn from that. I've got to learn and improve from that. The players aren't on their own in trying to improve. Coaches have got to improve so that's something I've got to get better at. I've had a chat with him (Broad) already. We just move on.
"I'm still loving it, it's a great job. I'd like to win a Test match though, but it's a fantastic job. Now I've seen all the players here, and the one-day and Twenty20 players are obviously [arriving] Thursday, so you get to deal with them and look at how we're going in that format of the game as well. By the end of the tour I'll have a really good mindset on all the players, which will be quite comforting for me as coach."
Lehmann did not retreat for one moment from the version of cricket romanticism he and captain Michael Clarke have shown an evangelical zeal for, even though England's shrewdness and pragmatism has stonewalled them repeatedly across the series. He took pride in having setup a thrilling final day of the Oval Test, though the generosity of Clarke's declaration meant the tourists were ultimately left cajoling the umpires into using their light meter and ending play - the object of a crowd's well-oiled booing at the end of the match.
"Look, I can't control the crowd. They've been pretty good all series. We've kept them quiet most of the time, even though we are 3-0 down, so it shows how close it probably is," Lehmann said. "In regards to that you can't do anything about that. What I do know is that game was set up totally by the Australian cricket team and I think the crowd probably enjoyed that more than the other days so far. That's the brand of cricket we want to play. We want to push the boundaries.
"We were quite happy to lose a game to set up the game. English fans have been great all summer, but to come out and see that on the last day, I think it was outstanding from Michael and the set-up what we tried to do. We want to keep challenging our players in those situations to get better, learn from the mistakes we make. We're going to make mistakes, we understand that. But we've got to improve from there. If we do that, then we can challenge."
Having had so little preparatory time ahead of the series and also no say in the touring party that was chosen, Lehmann said that while he had been impressed overall by the work ethic of the players, changes could be expected before the return matches in Australia. It may be that Lehmann asks for his own choices of assistant coaches, as has become fashionable in 21st century sport.
"It's great learning about the players how they are. I'm very impressed with their work ethic on and off the ground, how they go about it," Lehmann said. "I think there's a lot of improvement in our setup, which is exciting for me. Would I change too much? Really hard when you've just come into the setup and the touring side's been picked. When we're back home you'll probably see different things happen, but in terms of hearing a lot of things from outside and not being in that circle for many years, to come in and see how they're trying to improve all the time was impressive for me. Now it's just a matter of improving that skill level for us to compete better than we have."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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