Haddin hopeful of quick fix
Australia's Ashes vice-captain Brad Haddin has expressed earnest hope the new coach Darren Lehmann can help provide the rapid fixes the tourists desperately need if they are to seriously challenge England after Mickey Arthur's "cut-throat" removal.
As an injury replacement during the shambolic tour of India earlier this year and over the past three weeks as the captain of Australia A, Haddin was a witness first to the decline in the national team's standards and then to Arthur's swift exit as a result, across a series of meetings during the team's match against Gloucestershire in Bristol.
Shocking as the initial news had been, Haddin was optimistic that Lehmann's appointment would provide the supercharge needed for a team short of confidence and balance ahead of the series. This is no more readily apparent than in the team's batting stocks, where the likes of Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja and the captain Michael Clarke have precious little form behind them.
"We've got to be accountable as a bowling group and as a batting group," Haddin said. "All of us as a batting group, there are obviously areas we need to improve in our game, and I'm pretty confident we'll go in the right direction over the next two weeks. The bottom line is we've got to perform and I'm comfortable with where this group's at. We've got the best cricketers in Australia here and I'm comfortable we can move forward with that."
Like his captain Michael Clarke, Haddin accepted the players had to take some responsibility for the fate that has befallen Arthur. But he was swiftly on-message to avoid too much introspection over the events of the past few months. After all, only two weeks out from the toss of the coin at Trent Bridge there is scarcely a second to waste on solid knocks and second thoughts.
"It's not something that we have to deal with every day, the loss of a coach," Haddin said. "But from our point of view we've got to make this a fresh start. We can go over what's happened as much as we want an analyse what's gone on but the bottom line is we've got to move forward as a cricket team and we've got to start performing.
"It's obviously disappointing for Mickey. He's put a lot of time and effort into this team, but it's a fresh start and we've got to make sure we're in the right frame come that first Test. We as a group have to be accountable for where we want to take this team, and we'll see how successful that is. We're pretty comfortable now with moving forward. It's not hard to be motivated by this tour.
"I don't think a day like this is needed to remind everyone of how high the stakes are playing for Australia. This is cut-throat, this is the pinnacle of what we all do as coaches, players, support staff, everyone. And one thing with this group I've noticed - we're a very talented squad and as guys we just need to move forward as a cricket team and become better as a team moving forward and I'm very confident that can happen."
Recalled to the Australian team as the kind of senior player so desperately missed since the retirements of Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting, Haddin can recall his days jousting with Lehmann as opposing captains in domestic matches between South Australia and New South Wales. But over the past three weeks as the captain of Australia A, Haddin has watched Lehmann's coaching work up close, and liked what he saw.
"It was an enjoyable A tour, we got out of it exactly what we needed leading into this series," Haddin said. "We had a lot of players at different stages in preparation, guys on their first tour, guys getting ready for the Ashes, and Darren and Troy [Cooley] were very positive about the cricket we wanted to play and that we wanted to win three matches. Darren was very aggressive in his approach there. He wanted us to get the game moving forward and win cricket games. That's what we did.
"We've sat down as a group and planned what we want to do over the next couple of weeks leading into the first Test. As a group we're pretty clear on what we want to do, we're at different stages as players, but we're all on the same path here trying to get to this first Test. It's a new start."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here