In less than a week Darren Lehmann has transformed Australia. It may not mean that they regain the Ashes but their new coach has swiftly declared his hand.
He continued his audacious start on Monday by confirming that the 35-year-old veteran Chris Rogers will open the batting in the Ashes series which begins next week.
Lehmann had already declared that Shane Watson will move back to the top of the order, which will give the Test side a brand new opening partnership.
If this follows the lead of England, who have promoted Joe Root to be Alastair Cook’s opening partner, it is much more sweeping. David Warner and Ed Cowan, who are both in the squad, had opened for the previous 17 successive Tests.
They are both now challenging for positions lower down, Cowan probably at three, Warner, who is still banned after punching Root in the face in a Birmingham bar, at six.
Lehmann, who took over when Mickey Arthur was astonishingly sacked a week ago, said: “Watson and Rogers will open the batting for Australia, I’m comfortable with that. They’ll play the first Test. All the rest are in the frame, but Rogers has obviously been picked for a reason by the previous selection panel and we’re really comfortable with that, he’s had a great summer here with Middlesex, made two big hundreds and been in good form.”
Watson has opened in 46 of his 75 innings before being dropped down the order. Rogers (below) has played only one Test match five years ago, when he scored four and 15 opening against India. He has been recalled to the squad to add wisdom, if not necessarily international experience.
“It’s a huge thrill,” Rogers said. “Anyone who has been selected doesn’t want to be a one-Test wonder. I had probably given up hope at times but I guess, with the new selection committee and retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, it gave me a bit of hope that they would pick an older head.”
Lehmann has made it clear that he expects Australia to play in a certain way. As he put it after their training session in Worcester yesterday, they will be in the contest and will not be standing back.
“I suppose we want people to love watching us play and come through the gates,” he said. “It is going to be an exciting series full stop. The appointment might be seen as an aggressive one and we are going to play an aggressive brand of cricket – there is no doubt about that.”
In a way the policy is a throwback to when Lehmann played his 27 Test matches, 22 of which Australia won. But then the team contained some of the game’s most legendary players; this one does not.
Attack may be a favoured philosophy, but it may not necessarily be effective. However, the players are clearly at ease with it – for now.
While Lehmann might have settled quickly into the job he can still hardly believe he is doing it.
“I was supposed to be in Yorkshire this week having barbecues with my wife and a beer,” he said. “It has been a really eventful few days. It has started to slow down now I am in the role and I know what I am doing and where we are heading.
“That first 12-24 hours was quite critical for changing the way we do things and how I perceived the way we wanted to play, and it was quite easy because the players have been great so it has been an easy transition.”
They resume it today in Worcestershire when Ryan Harris and Jackson Bird will form part of their seam attack, with the 19-year-old left-arm spinner Ashton Agar also appearing.
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