Australia's coach Darren Lehmann has rejected suggestions that the national team's "family first" policy has been run roughshod over by the selectors' decision not to recall Brad Haddin after he missed the Lord's Test to be with his ill daughter Mia in a London hospital.
Haddin was struggling for form and confidence for some months prior to Lord's, and after his replacement Peter Nevill performed well in Australia's 405-run win, the older man was told he was now consigned to the reserve gloveman's berth.
It was not only a decision that attracted considerable criticism from former players including Ricky Ponting, Ian Healy, Matthew Hayden and Shane Warne, but there have also been rumblings of discontent about the issue from within the team, a rare experience for Lehmann. But in the wake of an eight-wicket hiding dealt out by England at Edgbaston, Lehmann responded by saying it had been the hardest decision of his playing and coaching careers.
"No, we're really close as a group. We've talked about it openly," Lehmann said in response to questions about team ructions regarding the Haddin decision. "Let's make it perfectly clear that Brad has been a brilliant cricketer for Australia for a long period of time and that would be the hardest decision I've had to make as a coach, or even as a player. The cold hard facts are he's played the last 12 Test matches and made 250 runs at 15, with 16 bowleds out of 21. So it comes down to performance. I know there's been a big hoo-hah about 'family first', well we still have that.
"We had Ryan Harris missing a tour to the West Indies with no guarantee he was going to play the first Test here - we didn't know he was going to retire obviously. David Warner missed Zimbabwe for the birth of his child, no guarantees he was going to play one-day cricket. I know there's been a very unbalanced view from a lot of people about it.
"We certainly care about Brad and his family, we had to make a decision on what we thought was the best XI for this particular game and Pete did a good job at Lord's so it was very hard to change that side and he did a good job in this game. That's a really tough decision to make - we love Hadds, we all love Hadds, the players love Hadds. So everyone's going to have different emotions with it but that's part of professional sport and we try and deal with it as best as we possibly can."
Lehmann also stated that Haddin was not a source of dissent about the selectors' call, pointing out his close relationship with Nevill, a fellow New South Welshman, and past precedents for replacement wicketkeepers being called up on an Ashes tour.
"I can't speak highly enough of how he's been with Pete and he's taken over the wicketkeeping coaching role as well as trying to do his own stuff to keep ready," Lehmann said. "Because as you know last time we were here Graham Manou played because Brad broke his finger, so he has to be ready to play just in case.
"He's a ripper bloke, one of the best blokes I've ever coached, brilliant person, great family."
In acknowledging that Australia had to improve significantly and rapidly to still be in contention for the Ashes, Lehmann also said that there was no immediate pressure on the captain Michael Clarke to keep his spot in the team, despite a wretched recent run of performances.
"[He gets] as long as he needs, he's captain, but he's got to play well," Lehmann said. "He's a guy that is like all the other batters - it's not just Michael, it's our top six that apart from Chris Rogers in the first innings and David Warner in the second, they all struggled.
"I can't complain about the work ethic of any of the players, Michael especially as captain. He sets the tone and raises the bar of what you need to do to play well at this level, so from our point of view it's all those players playing well in the next Test match. We're not going to panic, that's for sure."
Lehmann acknowledged that swing bowling, both its effective use by the bowlers and its thwarting by the batsmen, had to improve significantly at Trent Bridge, a noted haven for movement through the air. "Hit it harder so it stops swinging," Lehmann joked about his side's best method to counter swing. "The simple fact is the ball will swing here. It has done for a long time. We've certainly practiced it.
"Jimmy Anderson's skills with the swinging ball has been exceptional so you don't like to see great players miss out on Test matches but that might help us a little bit. But I'm sure they're going to have someone equally as good in these conditions that can swing the ball so our batsmen have to get better at playing the swinging ball."