Darren Lehmann opens up about the demands, as well as the trials and tribulations, he faced during his tenure as the Australian national cricket head coach.
Lehmann admitted that he may have stayed too long in his role as the chief mentor of the national side before eventually quitting after the infamous Newlands ball-tampering scandal earlier this year.
‘I look back now and I had a fantastic five years coaching Australia,’ Lehmann told FIVEaa radio. ‘But I look back now and go “maybe it was a bit too long” to be fair. I speak to Justin Langer quite regularly, just making sure he gets some time off where he can because you’re on the road and it’s 300 days of high pressure trying to win every game. That takes its toll.
‘It’s 24-7, you don’t sleep. You’re thinking about either the day, the coming day, six months ahead, who you’ve got coming up, what players are coming back from injuries, you’re talking to everyone. It’s literally the most demanding job I’ve ever had, but it’s great fun. Even right to the end, I loved it.’
Lehmann took on the position in 2013 as a ‘short-term’ replacement for predecessor (and current Pakistan coach) Mickey Arthur but soon found himself in the role for longer than expected thanks to a successful run with the team that included the 2013-14 Ashes whitewash, a home series win over India in the wake of the tragic death of Phillip Hughes and victory in the ICC Cricket World Cup at home in 2015.
His tenure as coach was not all rosy though as the Australian cricket team regularly found themselves facing plenty of controversy. The team went through a drastic transition after the World Cup victory with plenty of their established players retiring soon after. It was the dawn of a new era as the likes of Steve Smith and David Warner took on leadership positions within the set-up and contributed to a culture of confrontational and aggressive cricket that drew consistent criticism from fans and foes alike.
Lehmann expressed no concerns regarding the team’s behaviour on the pitch throughout his reign but was forced to accept things had gone too far amid the disgrace of the Newlands ball-tampering scandal that led to his resignation.
‘I was in a bad place like everyone for a little bit of time. It’s taken me the last three months, I’m starting to feel a bit more normal and enjoying watching the cricket again,’ Lehmann added. ‘Your kids, and when your wife’s copping it, you say enough’s enough. That’s when it gets too personal and you take a step back.’
In Gideon Haigh’s recently released book, Crossing the Line, it is reported that there were concerns within the national team about Lehmann’s health and ability to cope with the demands of the job as early as 2015. In January 2016, Lehmann suffered a serious deep vein thrombosis that forced him to take a break, leading to Langer stepping in as ODI coach for their Caribbean triangular series.
‘He was loath at first to take selectorial responsibilities, which “had the potential to create friction between the players and myself”: Pat Howard (Cricket Australia’s team performance manager) needed to persuade him,’ Haigh wrote. ‘Nor did he see himself staying overlong, liking to quote his wife Andrea’s question when he was offered the job: “Do you think you can make a difference?”
‘In hindsight, some felt Lehmann should have moved on after the 2015 World Cup, by which time he was clearly feeling the pressure of indifferent health and prolonged separations from home. But with the retirements of [Michael] Clarke, [Brad] Haddin, [Chris] Rogers, [Ryan] Harris, [Mitchell] Johnson and [Shane] Watson in short order, following the tragedy of Phillip Hughes, the coach’s continuity appeared welcome.
‘His influence was then consolidated by the need for the team’s remaking under Smith and Warner, suddenly senior players despite their relative inexperience. As the coach was getting older, the players were growing younger. More and more he referred to them as “kids”, “good”, “great”, “hard-working” etc when they might be men in their mid-20s or even older.’
When asked about his thoughts on the futures of the disgraced trio from the Newlands scandal, Lehmann shared that he believes they will make their way back into the national set-up after finding their feet in domestic competitions.
‘They’re not too bad, they have good days and bad days like everyone,’ he said. ‘Obviously that was a pretty big mistake by everyone, but the game moves forward, and they’re going OK, they’re good young men, and they’ll come back playing really good cricket for Australia.’
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