24 June 2013

Boof is in, Arthur is out - a good move?

Quite a number of people have stated the timing is poor and that the sacking of Mickey Arthur so close to the Ashes is a mistake. News report have been stating, "Ashes crisis!" I am one of the supporters who disagrees completely with this outlook as we need to be positive. The news that Arthur is out and that Darren "Boof" Lehmann has replaced him is good news. In fact I think it is bloody fantastic and will gladly eat my words. I rated Boof as an Australian Cricketer. I am now excited to rate him in the not too distant future as an Australian Coach.

The decision by Cricket Australia - surprising and mighty bold - was needed and the timing didn't have a day to spare. The other news that Michael Clarke has stepped down in his selection position has only highlighted this strategic change at the top of the food chain. This is outstanding news.

What about England? To be honest, I reckon this decision will not be great news for their camp. The new coach is a man who had a taste for their blood and will be far more driven and obsessed to coach his troops to knock them over and out. Fortunately for Australian supporters, England did not lift the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy after losing to India. 

Arthur never seemed to secure the support from the public and I am left wondering if internally things just haven't recovered since the Indian tour dramas. It would seem that it definitely wasn't working with Arthur and this change seems to have cleared the air, along with some good Ashes inclusions in our squad.

Oddly enough it felt as if tension left the Australian camp with this news. I don't intend to disrespect Arthur with that comment but supporting Australian Cricket is something you feel internally, it's a pride that you cannot pigeonhole and I trust my gut instinct on these matters.

Arthur is not to be blamed completely for the way things turned out, in fact that would be unfair and unprofessional. He is a disappointed man right now and shocked with the news, so no need to trash talk. Arthur however wasn't able to secure that respect and his regime-like decisions seemed like lessons from the school headmaster which just never settled well across the board. Australian Cricket has recently felt like a bit of a school yard - out of control. In his defence some our players need to earn the respect of the supporters as a few carry larger than life egos. Arthur tried and it t is a pity to see anyone get sacked professionally, but just the way it went and poor performances only added fuel to the fire.

A few unwanted incidents happened under the watch of Arthur.

In recent times we lost against India 4-0 in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Always tough to play Tests in India but it was a sour result, especially with unwanted off-field dramas. Discipline has slipped amongst the players and although according to Cricket Australia this is part of the coaching deal, the players are adults and should have been far more professional. Having said that there was no respect being shown towards certain departments and Arthur's inability to establish a strong, sincere and genuine sense of respect would have contributed to this. The Champions Trophy early exit added to this, along with the English bar incident - lead by David Warner.

The Cricket Australia CEO, James Sutherland, reflected this in the press conference come the official announcement of Lehmann's selection.

“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 reco
mmendation to make an immediate change as being in the best interests of the team,” said Sutherland.

It may seem harsh but it had to be done, has been done and needed to be done. Australia never seemed set on a non-Australian leading the side. There is possibly still a sense of belief that bringing in a personality from the glory days can turn things around, not that of a coach having not been involved with that era.

Arthur was the scapegoat and he was not the right personality to take this team forward. Arthur is out, Lehmann is in!

With Clarke no longer in a selection position, all the heated debate that he has his "favourites" can now be dusted away and this will enable him to focus further on leadership of his team and mentor his batsmen. This is a healthy step from both a personal and public stance. It could help with selection consistencies, but John Inverarity will be watched closely with this management.

Two years ago my mate Matt declared Lehmann should be coach. I never laughed about it and took his opinion quite seriously. When Arthur got the gig to coach Australia I was reminded of his opinion - by Matt personally. It's great news that Lehmann now has his chance and he's had the chance to graft and show his leadership and tactical colours with the Queensland Bulls, who have shown solid improvement.

Two years ago Shane Warne also shared his opinion that Darren Lehmann was the ideal man for the job, post-Tim Nielsen. Finally Warnie has had just another tip pay off!

"I think Darren Lehmann is absolutely outstanding - as a coach or in some senior role involved in the team or as a selector.
"I think he's got a really good understanding of the young guys, he's got a great understanding of old school and what's required to perform.
"[There's] old-school '70s and '80s - sit down and don't say a word and let the experienced people talk - to the new way where you play one game you think you've played a hundred and you're part of the furniture. Somewhere in the middle is about the right way."

A smile breaks into the Australian camp © Getty Images
Lehmann comes from the die-hard Aussie cricket days. His leadership experience, passion for the Baggy Green legacy and his "bloke" attitude will be really good our guys - supporters included. "Boof" will also be able to give these players a good kick in the butt when needed and have the respect shown given they will know where he comes from and likely relate to him far easier than the unknown elements of Arthur.

Lehmann has an unquestionable passion for the great game, he has a "team comes first" attitude and enjoys a cold beer or two. His focus on the fundamentals is hard to go unnoticed and while we always hear about players waffling on about their fitness, hitting the gym, doing weights etc. Boof will be focusing on batting, bowling and fielding - the rest is simply detail. He also has been in the hot seat for telling it like it is and perhaps that brutal aspect of his personality will toughen these guys up and make them know "the line in the sand" (as Arthur put it) before he even shows up at the first training session.

Best of all was Lehman's attitude towards family values - highlighted in his press statement. In a side where individualism has seemed to take hold and accountability was never properly addressed, the collectivity may return to the side which will inevitably create a brighter team culture. Winning will help and Lehmann is aware of this, but Cricket Australia needs to become a family again - that is not just the player group.

As per his statement; "It's about life as well, it's a game of cricket. It's important we have success and play well but it's a small part of your life, so we've got to make sure we are helping them grow their lives on and off the ground, that is really important to me. Family is a big part of it, enjoying each other's company while we're away, and learning about ourselves and different cultures and different people we have in the team."

If you also need to know a thing or two about Lehmann as a cricketer, he could hold his own.
He averaged 57.59 runs with the bat at First-Class level, averaged 44.95 runs for the Baggy Greens with 5 centuries from 27 Tests. He averaged below thirty with the ball at Test and ODI level, and he played a huge role in our 1999 and 2003 World Cup victories, notably 2003 where he scored 224 runs at 44.80 and bagged 6 wickets.

Essentially the business needs to be done on the field. However, coaching and leadership is vital for this unstable time in Australian Cricket. I am confident this will bring a sense of natural respect given Lehmann's background and the fact Cricket Australia will stress the importance to the team given their timing for such a move. Most of all, the players have been far from disciplined as a unit so they will have to do their part to ensure Lehmann is boosted in his capacity.

I also believe this move will possibly be a start to rectifying the leadership issues we have. Michael Clarke is unlikely to play cricket for a great deal longer - stated by him for personal aspirations and his physical issues - and right now their is a leadership void. Coaching was directly related to his and this could seriously help fix this problem, or at least get things back on the rails!

The Ashes is just around the corner. England did not win the Champions Trophy, further good news. We have a bunch of players who have stepped up for Australia A in recent tour matches and a few others edging to have a crack against the English team - especially Chris Rogers and Ed Cowan.

Tough decisions need to be made. No one knows the future but Australian Cricket has sunk to an all time low in terms of connectivity rolling from the team to us, the supporters who keep this game alive. Lehmann cannot fix things on his own. This is not a miracle turn around. The hard work has to be readdressed.
However, from the Baggy Green Blog, I proudly welcome our new coach, Darren "Boof" Lehmann. Let's get back the urn! 

Sources: Cricket Australia, ESPN Cricinfo.com.

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