Australia Can Bounce Back to Win Cricket’s Ashes, Lehmann Says

Cricket Australia Head Coach Mickey Arthur
Mickey Arthur, head coach of Australia's national cricket team. Photographer: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Darren Lehmann replaced the fired Mickey Arthur as Australia cricket coach and said months of instability won’t undercut his team’s chances in the Ashes series against England, which starts in 15 days.

Cricket Australia said Arthur was replaced because the team’s “struggles both on and off the field during the tour of India and the recent ICC Champions Trophy led to the CA board taking such drastic action.”

Australia lost its most recent Test series 4-0 in India, has been plagued by disciplinary issues, and failed to win a game at the Champions Trophy in England and Wales that ended two days ago. Even so, Lehmann says he’s optimistic.

“Yes, definitely,” he told a news conference in Bristol, England, yesterday when asked if Australia could win the Ashes. “It’s a challenge for all the playing group and everyone involved in Cricket Australia. The team is going to play a certain way, an aggressive brand of cricket that entertains people and fans but also gets the job done.”

Australia’s squad gathered yesterday to prepare for the five-Test series against England starting July 10 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. After winning eight straight Ashes contests between 1989 and 2003, Australia lost three of the past four and faces the prospect of losing three series in a row against its archrival for the first time since 1956.

“There won’t be any ongoing problems. We’ll get everything right, on and off the field,” Lehmann said. “It’s important to talk about the game whether it’s over a beer or a Diet Coke, I don’t mind being perfectly honest.”

Asked about his top three priorities, he said, “Probably ’win, win, win,’ for a start.”

‘Good Man’

Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland explained the decision to change coaches by saying decisive action was needed.

“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,” Sutherland told reporters. “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.”

Captain Michael Clarke resigned his role as a team selector as part of the coaching restructure. He said the replacement of the coach took him by surprise.

“Like everybody I was shocked at the time, and then it was about trying to keep my focus on having success on this Ashes tour,” Clarke said. “That’s the most important thing, that we make sure we are performing a lot better than we have so far on this tour and a lot better than on our most recent tour to India.”

Warner Suspension

South African Arthur, 45, was hired as Australia’s first non-native coach in November 2011 and led the team to 10 wins, six losses and three draws in 19 Tests. His tenure was marked by discipline breaches in the squad, the latest being batsman David Warner’s suspension earlier this month for punching England’s Joe Root in a bar.

In March, vice-captain Shane Watson was among four players dropped for the third Test in India for failing to submit presentations on how they and the team could improve. Watson returned to skipper the team in the fourth match in place of the injured Clarke and the team fell to the 4-0 sweep.

Last month, Warner was fined A$5,750 ($5,300) for posting abusive comments to journalists on his Twitter account. The opening batsman was later suspended until the Ashes opener and fined A$11,500 for punching Root following Australia’s June 8 loss to England in the Champions Trophy.

‘Die by the Sword’

Arthur said he was “very disappointed” at being replaced.

“Nobody likes losing their job, but I don’t feel let down by the players at all,” he said. “At the end of the day, you live and die by the sword and I gave this job 100 percent of my time over the last couple of years. The disappointing thing is I thought we were nearly there to cracking it, I really do. I can look back and say I’ve chucked everything at it.”

Lehmann will be contracted until June 2015, after the next World Cup, in line with Arthur’s planned tenure.

The new coach played 27 Tests for Australia as a batsman between 1998 and 2004, guided the Deccan Chargers to the Indian Premier League title in 2009 and has been coaching the Queensland state team in Australia’s domestic competitions. He’d just completed a coaching assignment with Australia’s second-string squad.

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

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