NEW Australia coach Darren Lehmann admits he faces “a challenge” after being parachuted into the role barely two weeks before the first ball of the Ashes is bowled in anger at Trent Bridge.
Former Yorkshire batsman Lehmann, who had been working with the Australia A side, was yesterday named successor to Mickey Arthur, who was dramatically sacked because of poor results and off-field problems.
It is the latest twist in an already tumultuous year for Australia, who are rated clear underdogs for the first of two Ashes series in 2013, and the scale of the task is not lost on the 43-year-old.
“It’s a challenge for all the playing group and everyone involved,” Lehmann said. “The team is going to play a certain way. We’re going to play an aggressive brand of cricket that entertains the fans but also gets the job done on and off the field. I’m excited by the challenge.”
Poor results have been compounded by disciplinary problems, including the notorious row over “homework” that saw four players dropped during a 4-0 whitewash in India and batsman David Warner’s attack on England’s Joe Root in a Birmingham bar earlier this month.
“There won’t be any ongoing problems,” Lehmann added. “We’ll get everything right off the field. It’s important to talk about the game – whether it’s with a beer or a Diet Coke I don’t mind.”
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland called Lehmann, who has signed a two-year contract, “the obvious choice” to replace Arthur, but conceded the timing was “not ideal”.
“It obviously isn’t the type of change we want to make three weeks out from the Ashes commencing but we believe a change is needed,” he said. “This has been a difficult decision but one we feel is necessary.”
Arthur, who won 10 and drew three of his 19 Tests in charge, said he accepted blame for “inconsistent cricket”, adding: “We also had discipline issues and I have to take that on the chin.”
Root looks set to open with captain Alastair Cook in the first Test on 10 July, having been chosen to do so in England’s four-day warm-up against Essex, starting on Sunday. Rival Nick Compton is not in the 14-man squad.
Lehmann’s first match with Australia is at Somerset tomorrow.
■ Scored more than 25,000 runs in a playing career that started at South Australia and included 10 years at Yorkshire, who he helped win County Championship in 2001
■ Played 27 Tests and 117 ODIs for Australia, and was part of World Cup winning sides in 1999 and 2003. Retired in 2008
■ Coached Deccan Chargers to Indian Premier League title in 2009; enjoyed further success with Queensland, winning 2012 Sheffield Shield