Darren Lehmann wasn’t sold on the idea of adding more members to the Australian team’s support staff © Getty Images
Australia’s coach Darren Lehmann bristled at suggestions that he or his support staff needed further change or “reinvention” following a drought-breaking victory over South Africa in Adelaide, at the same time revealing how much pressure he has been under in recent weeks.
Lehmann did not enjoy being told through the press by team performance manager Pat Howard that he needed to “reinvent” himself as a coach following the recent run of five consecutive defeats, a streak that also coincided with the release of an autobiographical book, Coach, which outlines his philosophies.
“I was going to wear a suit to the press conference,” Lehmann quipped when asked about Howard’s words. “I didn’t. I chose not to.”
Lehmann was also unhappy to be quizzed on the role of spin coach John Davison, who has a strong working relationship with the team’s No. 1 spin bowler Nathan Lyon but is only seen sporadically on tour with him. Australia is a rare case of an international team not having a full-time spin coach, not only to work with spin bowlers but also to hone the part-time skills of batsmen who bowl spin.
After a recent dry spell, Lyon bowled beautifully in Adelaide with the benefit of Davison’s presence, and he has historically tended to perform at his best when his trusted mentor is nearby. However, Lehmann said he did not want to add to the number of support staff already with the team, and argued that other consultants had been used for Asian tours.
“So you want another staff member on tour?” Lehmann replied to a question about Davison. “A lot of people say it’s a question of numbers. John’s obviously got other roles as well, so he has been working with Nathan throughout the preparation phase of all Test matches. So he has been around, just Adelaide he stayed around.
“I would have thought we’ve had Murali [Muttiah Muralitharan] and had Sri [Sridharan Sriram], so we’ve had a couple around the place. Davo’s come around on tours. When we’re away, we normally take one. I don’t think we haven’t taken one to the subcontinent.”
Lehmann admitted that Lyon had responded well to criticism he had faced from both outside the team and within. “I’m just pleased for the players. The players have copped a lot over the last few weeks and they’ve responded really well,” he said. “Obviously, a change of players as well. You feel sad for the blokes who missed out in this Test match, but the guys who came in did a really good job. Steve [Smith] summed it up – a new young group going forward, really pleased for them.
“Overall, [Usman] Khawaja was outstanding in the first innings. He put away his cover drive and really summed up conditions well. They all did their job. It was great to see Nathan Lyon, who has copped a lot from everyone – including us, I suppose, as staff and selectors. He really did a great job for us this game as well.”
Public pressure on Lehmann and the selectors was underlined by his assertion that Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood will play in the ODI series against New Zealand that now takes place before the Pakistan Tests. “We get in trouble if we don’t play them,” he said. “Not sure about that [resting them]. But they’re going to play. At some stage.
“We gave them a break, didn’t we? So they should get through the summer. But we got in trouble for that as well. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The simple fact is day-night Test match, day off, helps us in the three one-dayers. So they should be fine there.
“Then, it’s a day-night Test match in Brisbane, so they should be right to get through the summer and it’s a pretty important summer as we know, it’s very important. They led our attack really well and stood up for us.
“They’ve just got to be really fit and fresh, as much as you possibly can. There’s so much cricket all year round. Do you learn your lesson along the way? You do. But, as long as they’re fresh and going okay, there’s no problems playing them. But the advantage we had in them not going to South Africa as such is that Hazlewood’s fresh as a daisy. He’s going really well. And bowled probably the best he has bowled in the last couple of summers, I thought, in this series.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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