x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Darren Lehmann replaces Mickey Arthur as Australia cricket coach

Former Test cricketer and coach of Queensland will take over team just 16 days before start of Ashes series in England.

Mickey Arthur was appointed as the Australian cricket team's first overseas coach in 2011. David Crosling / EPA
Mickey Arthur was appointed as the Australian cricket team's first overseas coach in 2011. David Crosling / EPA

Mickey Arthur has been sacked as Australia head coach and replaced by Darren Lehmann, Cricket Australia has confirmed.

The shock move comes just 16 days before the start of the Ashes series, amid concerns over the team's form and a string of disciplinary issues.

CA chief executive James Sutherland said: "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."

CA also confirmed in its website statement that, as part of the coaching restructure, captain Michael Clarke had "sought to step down as a selector of the team".

Sutherland insisted the decision to replace Arthur with Lehmann had not been taken lightly.

"This has been a difficult decision to make but one that we feel is necessary," he said in the statement. "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."

Sutherland added at a press conference in Bristol: “I’d like to acknowledge Mickey Arthur, his commitment and dedication to the task and passion for the Australian cricket team.

“Mickey Arthur is a good man, he’s tried his utmost to do a good job and unfortunately, at the end of day he just hasn’t quite done that.

“We decided things weren’t improving - we could let things be as they are, continue with the status quo, or we could make a change.

“There will be people that think the timing is wrong but we’re confident this is a decision in the interests of the Australia cricket team and will see improved performance from the team.

“Darren Lehmann is, to us, the obvious choice to come in and replace Mickey. As a cricketer and a coach he has an outstanding record, he’s very highly regarded in cricket and within the Australian team.

“His performances recently as coach of Queensland and the Brisbane Heat have seen him win titles in all three formats of the game.

“We’ve recognised that by giving him development opportunities as a coach, most recently as assistant coach to the Australia A team here in England.

“His performances over that time have been very impressive and by being here now and ready to come into the role we’re confident he will be able to take a running start at this job.”

Lehmann will be able to step straight into his new role, having already been in England in his A team role.

Sutherland continued: “We have made a decision on the eve of an Ashes series with the intent of seeing improved performance from the Australian cricket team.

“We’re really confident that we are making the right decison right now, that this team will respond under Darren Lehmann and we will see an effort during this Ashes series and going forward that Australian cricket fans can be very proud of.

“We’re confident that the decisions that we’ve made, tough as they might be, will see improved performance in the short and long term.”

Arthur was appointed as successor to Tim Nielsen in 2011 and was Australia's first overseas coach.

His time in charge has been far from easy as Australia have struggled to replace retiring stars like Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey.

Perhaps the nadir of Arthur's tenure came this March on the tour of India when vice-captain Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson and Usman Khawaja were disciplined for failing to make a presentation on how the team could improve, an incident which became known as 'homework-gate'.

Disciplinary issues continued to haunt the team in England earlier this month when opener David Warner was suspended because of an attack on England batsman Joe Root in a bar.

To compound matters, Australia finished bottom of their group in the ICC Champions Trophy after suffering two defeats, including against Ashes opponents England.

With the first Test of back-to-back Ashes series beginning on July 10, the timing is undoubtedly a surprise.

But Damian Fleming, the former Australia fast bowler, felt Arthur's position had grown tenuous since the tour of India.

He told BBC Sport: "I'm shocked at the timing [but] I would have thought he was on thin ice with the performances of the team on the field in the last six months, particularly that disastrous Indian tour where we lost 4-0, but also what's been happening off the field.

"It just shows for me that they're not united and for the leadership within the Australian team, that's the biggest job, to make sure everyone's going in the right direction and that hasn't appeared to be happening in the last six months."

Lehmann will take over at a key moment in Australian cricket, as they attempt to regain the Ashes having lost the last two Test series against England.

Lehmann has impressed since being appointed coach of Queensland.

Fleming said: "Darren Lehmann was a fine Australian player, they love him up in Yorkshire, he's a legend there and he's done some good work for Queensland. He took over a couple of years ago, they've won the Sheffield Shield, the Big Bash.

"He's got the blend of being a fine Australian cricketer in his own right and you don't want to get on the wrong side of Boof [Lehmann].

"The only question for him is when you are coaching a new team you want to bring in your own structures. Is he going to be able to so that 20 days out from the Ashes? I don't think so.

"But I'd like an Australian coach and particularly one who's been a fine player like Darren Lehmann."

Lehmann himself is no stranger to disciplinary breaches.

In 2003 he received a five-match ban from the ICC for a racial outburst after a game against Sri Lanka.

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