THERE is never a good time to sack a coach, as invariably it’s a reflection that the team is in a bad state. I wasn’t shocked, then, that Australia fired Mickey Arthur on Monday, even though the Ashes are just two weeks away.
What I found extraordinary was that they had to turn to a foreign coach in the first place – Arthur is South African – given the galaxy of stars who have lit up their team over a hugely successful last 25 years or so.
The fact is that Australia have been on a slippery slope. They were playing badly on the field, had disciplinary issues off it and there was dissent in the dressing room. Those at the top have to take responsibility.
Lehmann is a good appointment and a really solid bloke. He doesn’t have much to work with but will give it his all to get the most out of them. Captain Michael Clarke needs to show the players he is right behind him.
The coaching shake-up puts Australia in a healthier situation, but I don’t think England should be any more concerned. If they produce the performances they are capable of then the Ashes will take care of itself.
England seem certain to pick Joe Root ahead of Nick Compton to open the batting in the first Test at Trent Bridge on 10 July, having done as much for this weekend’s four-day warm-up against Essex.
Root certainly deserves it. He is brimming with confidence and has played so well this year in all forms of cricket that he would be desperately unlucky to be left out of the side.
In his favour, he is also a handy alternative source of spin bowling. Were Graeme Swann to miss the first Test and England play Monty Panesar as a left-arm spinner, Root’s off-spin would be another reason to pick him.
Despite a disappointing defeat in Sunday’s final, the Champions Trophy provided further cause for English optimism.
Limited-overs coach Ashley Giles prepared the team very well, and the performances of Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Tim Bresnan and, when he played, Steven Finn, illustrated the strength in depth.
With Kevin Pietersen smashing a century for Surrey this week at the weekend as he steps up his comeback from injury, I imagine England captain Alastair Cook is currently sleeping very soundly.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer, who has also been captain and chairman of Warwickshire.