Cricket: Lehmann the right man for the job – can he turn it around?

Darren Lehmann (image from Fox Sports)
Darren Lehmann (image from Fox Sports)

Australian cricket is getting a makeover.  No, the logo has not changed.  Instead, the coach has.

Darren Lehmann was last Monday instated as the new national coach, replacing Mickey Arthur.  A good choice as a new coach? Certainly.  Under controversial circumstances?  Yes.

There was nothing wrong with Arthur as a coach; the South African had good success with the South African national side.  Notable achievements included being the first South African coach to oversee a test win in Australia, taking the Proteas to the number one ranking in both test and one-day cricket, and he was also involved in the Johannesburg match which saw Australia and South Africa both score 430 plus runs in an epic one-day showdown.

However, after a falling out with Cricket South Africa, Arthur moved to Western Australia, before taking over the Australian reins from Tim Neilsen in the latter half of 2011.

Arthur’s sacking is not all to do with the disappointing performances from the Australian cricket team of late; poor off-field performance has led to a swathe of questions asked and changes made.  David Warner‘s latest tirades were the final nail in the coffin for a management that was fast spiraling into a hole that continued to dig itself.  Factor in the constant “cutting up” and switching of the side, and it was always going to come to a head.

No disrespect to Arthur; the man did the best he could with a very fragile list.  Times, though, have moved forward, and Lehmann is taking guard.  A man with a hard nosed attitude, I have no doubt he can help pull things into line.  Whether it will happen before the start of the first Ashes test, at Trent Bridge on July 10, is an entirely different matter.

Granted, Lehmann’s playing career wasn’t completely glittering.  He loves a beer; but he is popular with the players and will bring a fresh set of ideas to the table.  Working to a limited timetable, the shake-up of Australian cricket in the recent months should be the ideal spur to get things straight.

The first item that needs analysis and action is David Warner.  Inconsistent scores and questionable behaviour off-field has dropped him out of favour with a lot of people, especially the fans.  A thorough consultation needs to be had between Lehmann and Warner, to sit down and work out how to attack each problem.  Until that is sorted out, Chris Rogers is the other likely candidate to open the batting, alongside Shane Watson, who Lehmann has already backed as an opener.  However, Ed Cowan has also been toiling away in the English county tournament, and could also vie for the opener’s gig; it is a dogfight between the three of them.

Given captain Michael Clarke’s injury-prone back, Lehmann has a long road ahead of him.  Right now, though, the focus turns specifically to Trent Bridge.  Each stepping stone after that must stay balanced, or the chances of Australia regaining the urn are slim.  Success has certainly come at state level for Lehmann, and so has the accolades; now it is time to see if he can also step up to the national level.  Trent Bridge is just one of the many hurdles he, and the Australian squad, have to jump over.

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