Darren Lehmann has the image of being the old-fashioned, beer-drinking type, but he is a smart enough guy with a wonderful cricket brain that he embraces the new and blends it in with some of those old-fashioned values. You can’t just create a team environment like magic, but his approach makes it evolve naturally.
I’ll always remember his first day on the job as coach of Deccan Chargers in 2009. We had an intra-squad practice game and afterwards the fitness guru asked everyone to jump in the ice bath, which was second nature to the Australians in the group but not for some of the other players.
But any hesitancy they had disappeared when a naked Darren Lehmann came steaming through the changing rooms and did the biggest bomb you could imagine into the ice bath, saying “one in, all in!” It wasn’t a pretty sight, but it brought a lot of laughter and broke down the barriers. It also showed his commitment; he doesn’t ask anything of the players that he wouldn’t do himself.
He creates that sense of fun and gives the players a long leash, but with that comes accountability. If you don’t adhere to the team’s ethos you’ll know about it in no uncertain terms. And you may not get a second chance. I’m yet to see any evidence of players taking advantage of his relaxed approach. Already we’re seeing positive signs from the Australian camp under Darren. Not only has he alleviated Michael Clarke of some of his burdens, he has given the players clear direction and let them know where they stand and what he expects of them.
I love the way Darren, or Boof as he is known, has announced, 10 days before the first Test, that Chris Rogers and Shane Watson will open. It means there is no uncertainty. I think a lot of Australia’s batting trouble started when Simon Katich was relieved of his position and Watson was flicked down the order to try to get more out of him as an all-round cricketer. Now Watson will be judged purely on his results as an opener, and it’s a bonus if they get some overs out of him as a bowler. His 109 against Worcestershire was a great start.
To read Adam Gilchrist’s columns in full throughout the Ashes series, visit the leading cricket website espncricinfo.com