Image courtesy of: The Mirror
Lehmann is confident he can lead Australia to Ashes glory
Newly recruited Australia coach Darren Lehmann has signed a contract to keep him in charge of the national team until the end of the 2015 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup.
Cricket Australia fired Mickey Arthur and hired Lehmann after failures of discipline, consistency of behaviour and accountability.
Lehmann’s first task could potentially be one of the biggest during his tenure as coach as he must ensure that Australia win the upcoming Ashes series against England after they were humiliated in their own backyard in 2010-11.
“There won’t be any ongoing problems. We’ll get everything right off the field,” Lehmann said. “It’s important to talk about the game, whether it’s with a beer or a Diet Coke I don’t mind, to be perfectly honest. It’s about learning the game and improving our skills. That’s what we’re about on this tour, improving our skills as cricketers and people, and performing at the level everyone would expect back home for us to do.
“It’s a challenge for all the playing group and everyone involved. The team is going to play a certain way. We’re going to play an aggressive brand of cricket that entertains the fans but also gets the job done on and off the field. I’m excited by the challenge.”
James Sutherland and Pat Howard both gave an explanation over why they decided to terminate Arthur and hire Lehmann.
“This has been a difficult decision to make but one that we feel is necessary,” Sutherland said. “We are looking to establish a high-performing Australian cricket team that is consistent over a period of time. To achieve that, we need all the parts moving in the right direction. Recent on-field results have been too inconsistent.
“Discipline, consistency of behaviour and accountability for performance are all key ingredients that need to improve. And we see that the head coach is ultimately responsible for that. The Cricket Australia board decided yesterday that Mickey Arthur should not continue as head coach of the Australian cricket team. In taking this decision, the board accepted the recommendation to make an immediate change as being in the best interests of the team.
“The timing is far from ideal but we didn’t feel we could sit back and hope matters would change without addressing issues critical to a high performing team culture. It obviously isn’t the type of change we want to make three weeks out from the Ashes commencing but we believe a change is needed.”
Sutherland also accepted responsibility for the failures of the team both on and off the field.
The timing of Arthur’s sacking is anything but perfect, but Sutherland noted that he wanted to give Australia the best chance of winning, especially now that they are going into the historic series without Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, both of whom announced their retirements last summer.
“Certainly it causes me to reflect on issues and performance related matters that as an organisation we need to take responsibility for,” Sutherland said. “I guess that’s why we’re grasping the nettle today and we’re making a decision to make change perhaps ahead of where public expectation might be because we’re not going to allow things to remain the same. Status quo isn’t good enough and we need improved performance improved accountability and we expect to see that over the coming months.
“I think we all need to take responsibility for ultimately performance. One of the key objectives as an organisation is for all teams to perform to their utmost ability. Between Pat and I we take responsibility for that and we’ve made a difficult decision today to move forward and hopefully we’ll get the response we hope for and expect.”
Sutherland conceded that Arthur’s job became much tougher after the departure of both Ponting and Hussey, but added that Lehmann’s growing reputation as a successful coach was just too enticing to ignore.
“Mickey’s job was made tougher by the departures, perhaps premature departures of Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting,” Sutherland said. “That’s not an excuse, that’s how it happened. But certainly Darren is close to the players, he knows a lot of them, a couple of them actually played with him. And I think that’s another reason why I have great confidence sitting here today in saying I believe the players will respond very positively under Darren.
“The board considered him the outstanding candidate to drive the cultural change required in the team and to take it to the number one ranking in all formats of the game. No-one is underestimating the task at hand but we believe he is the right man for the job. It is up to the players to respond under his leadership and demonstrate their commitment to a successful Australian team.”
Arthur himself admitted that the team never played as a cohesive unit during his tenure as head coach, which began back in November 2011.
“The reality is when you take a job on as head coach you are totally responsible for the outcomes,” he said. “The players are a young group learning the way. I’m very structured in the way I go about things. I’m a man of principle, I try and get the team going in one direction because I firmly believe a team with culture is a successful team.
“I don’t feel let down by the players at all. At the end of the day you live and die by the sword and I gave this job 100% of my time over the last couple of years. The disappointing thing is I thought we were nearly there to cracking it, I really do. I take responsibility for it.”
Lehmann also stated that he would act quickly on solving any issues with team culture and off-field behaviour standards after opening batsman David Warner was banned until the start of the first Ashes Test on July 10 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, for punching England’s Joe Root at the Walkabout bar in Birmingham.
Sutherland further confirmed that Clarke had stepped down from his position as a selector.
Clarke became a selector after the Argus Report recommended that the captain should become more involved with team selection and be held responsible for the decisions they make.
“Michael first approached Pat Howard in March after the recent Indian series and requested to stand down as a selector so that he could focus on the team and avoid any perceived conflicts of interest,” Sutherland said. “Being a team selector was proving to be a significant drain on Michael’s time and he sees this as distracting from his primary responsibilities as a player and as captain.”