x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Darren Lehmann could help revive Australia's fortunes old-fashioned way

Appointing an executive general manager with no experience in cricket and a coach who favours corporatese have proved counter-productive.

Darren Lehmann is old-fashioned and a former cricketer, which might help the Australia Test team. Greg Wood / AFP
Darren Lehmann is old-fashioned and a former cricketer, which might help the Australia Test team. Greg Wood / AFP

For much of the late 1980s and the whole of the 1990s, English cricket was an international joke.

Remember the one about the chairman of selectors who picked 29 players and four captains in one Ashes series, then blamed the alignment of planets for the persistent failure of his team?

Or the captain who summarily curtailed a news conference following another day of toil as he had tickets to watch Anything Goes at a London theatre?

Or the fast bowler who shaved his head at the start of a tour of Caribbean, fielded without a sunhat and promptly fell foul of sunstroke?

Well, have you heard the latest? The one about the coach being axed 16 days before the start of the biggest series they play, because he could not get his team to stop brawling in bars or hand their homework in on time? Classic.

During the majority, and certainly the latter half of the wilderness years, England aspired to be like Australia. Nasser Hussain, one of their former captains, could not end a sentence pining for a better England without saying "like the Australians do". Not so much any more.

And it turns out the whole time the Aussies were looking towards their good-for-nothing rivals and thinking: "I wish we could be more like them."

They have absolutely nailed it. What a shambles. England used to have a patent on shemozzles like this.

But this is 2013. Professionalism is supposed to safeguard against malaises like this but this Australia team have regressed instead to a time of lawless amateurism.

Maybe it is exactly that which is the problem. This has been a revolt by the ocker Aussie cricketer against the growing creep of corporate management mumbo jumbo.

Mickey Arthur is apparently a coach who favours corporatese. He wants employees to do presentations on how the organisation can be moved forwards. But these are cricketers. They want to see ball, hit ball.

It is the same further up the tree. At the end of 2011, Cricket Australia brought in a 37-year-old "Executive General Manager, team performance" – whatever that means – who presumably looks good in a suit, but whose sporting previous is all in rugby.

Pat Howard is well-liked in certain rugby union circles, most notably in England where he is a Leicester Tigers legend. But in cricket?

Does the cross-pollination thing really work? Was it really Howard's place, for example, to publicly question whether Shane Watson was a team man after the Homeworkgate debacle in India?

Maybe he isn't, but Watson was in his rights to question precisely what Howard knew about it. And he did, publicly – another instance of the Australians airing their dirty linen in public.

How to solve the problem? Select a coach from cricket's old school. Step forward Darren Lehmann, a spit and fag-butts coach who was there during the glory years.

He will be well placed to adjudicate on any late-night high-jinx as he will probably be there himself. The other way clearly did not garner any respect – maybe this one will.


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