Australia’s coach Darren Lehmann will mentor the national team until the 2019 Ashes series in England before making his exit, with succession planning to be a key part of his role over the next three years.
Lehmann’s contract has been extended until October 2019 by Cricket Australia, having previously been elongated until next year. Since his appointment on the eve of the 2013 Ashes series, Lehmann has guided Australia to home Test victories over England, India, New Zealand and West Indies, away defeats of South Africa and New Zealand, plus lifting the 2015 World Cup, also at home.
However, a heavy away loss in the UAE to Pakistan, the surrender of the Ashes in England last year and a surprising defeat to an unfancied Sri Lanka in Pallekele last week make it patently clear that Lehmann still has plenty of work ahead of him to advance Australia’s claim to the title of the world’s undisputed best team. In addition to the multiple retirements that followed last year’s Ashes, Lehmann’s support staff have changed considerably in the past six months, offering him fresh faces with which to work towards those goals.
“The board have actually seen that we are doing okay as such, barring the result in the Test [at Pallekele], but looking forward to the next few years in charge and hopefully getting some wins in the sub-continent, first and foremost on the agenda, but developing the side as we are,” Lehmann said. “We have a different coaching group now coming in and the players are refreshed and I am looking forward to the challenge.”
“I suppose the big one on everyone’s lips is the sub-continent – we certainly have to improve there. Ashes is a big home and away and, obviously, the World Cup. They are the big ones for us, as everyone knows, but you have got to try and win every games you play. For us, we just have to get better playing in all conditions.
“Probably the spinning ball on the sub-continent [is our biggest challenge] you would think. Swinging ball – a lot has been made of the England swinging ball and we won a couple of Test matches this time, albeit we lost the Ashes and the wickets they produced were very seam friendly. End of the day, that is the way cricket goes. For us, it is probably more the sub-continent conditions at the moment, getting prepared for that obviously with the next two Test matches here and then India at the back end.”
With typical frankness, Lehmann replied “I would think it would be, yeah” when asked whether the extended tenure would mark the completion of his time as coach. Between now and then, Australia face a tour of India, a Champions Trophy, another home and away Ashes contest and a World Cup in England. The newly-appointed assistant coachDavid Saker, recent interim coach Justin Langer and Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespiewill be among the candidates to eventually replace Lehmann.
“We’ll give those guys opportunities along the way. As I’ve always said, it’s the best job in the world. I love the job. But it’s a job you can’t do forever either,” Lehmann said. “So whatever opportunities we can give to the guys along the way we certainly will do. And then it’s up to the board what they do from there and the high performance department.
“I think you’re judged on results most of the time all around the world not just on the subcontinent. I think you’ve got to play well and win a lot of games of cricket basically as a coach. That’s what players have to do, that’s what coaches have to do in any sport. You’ve got to hopefully keep getting the results that makes it a lot easier.”
The rapid improvement of the national team’s results under Lehmann when first appointed three years ago arguably saved the jobs of more senior CA figures including the team performance manager Pat Howard and the chief executive James Sutherland. They have not yet forgotten this fact, allowing Lehmann the rare privilege of extending his role and also planning well in advance for life afterwards.