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Ashes 2013-14: Michael Clarke and Darren Lehmann galvanised a proud sporting nation

Coach, Darren Lehmann and Michael Clarke deserve all the due credits for Australia's resurgence © Getty Images
Coach, Darren Lehmann and Michael Clarke deserve all the due credits for Australia’s resurgence © Getty Images

 

By Gaurav Joshi

 

It was one of the precious Test series victories to saviour in 136 years of Australian cricketing history.  Ever since Mark Taylor’s team defeated the West Indies in the Caribbean in 1995, victories were so frequent, Australia as a nation had taken them granted.

 

Since 1995, Australia has been blessed with the golden generation of cricketers.  The cricket in the 90s was so competitive that an Australia second X1 would have lapped up the rest of the world.  Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting had created their own legacy that in reality was also impossible to match.

 

Michael Clarke, like Allan Border in the early 80s, was given a stiff task. In Clarke’s case, the challenge was even tougher; he had to amalgamate the cricketing hardiness of the 90s with gen Ys.

 

A task that seemed easier at home but it went precariously wrong in foreign conditions.  The cricketing assumptions had suddenly become impossibilities.

 

The Australian captain had the players with skills but he needed a father like figure to take the load from his back. Cricket Australia (CA) was proactive. They made Brad Haddin, another member who came through the rigorous cycle of the 90s was made deputy. Darren Lehman, a player who epitomised the 90s was hired as the coach.

 

The first move nearly worked in the first Test, when Haddin, a cricketer who has been mentally bred for the longer game, playing against the likes of Jason Gillespie and Andy Bichel in his youth, nearly pulled off a miracle win for the team. The team had managed its first objective, it raised the hope of a nation be it ever so slightly.

 

Over the next four Test matches, Lehmann and Clarke had masterminded plans that, had the weather not intervened, could have reflected a closer score line than 3 – 0.  In hindsight, Lehmann and Clarke probably laughed on the inside knowing they had discovered many cracks in the English armoury than the WACA pitch.

 

The 3 – 0 result was almost the blessing in the sky for Australia. It ensured England had false beliefs and since England had won previously in Australia, they landed down under with a sense of casualness.

 

Lehmann stuck to basics, relied on his countless experiences of the Australian conditions, and in the series in England he had discovered had it not been for the contribution of the English tail, Australia could have won the series. Mitchell Johnson was an important addition and so was Craig McDermott, a bowling coach who had transformed Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris back in 2011.

 

McDermott made a conscious decision to allow Johnson to be a tearaway quick. The word “swing” was never echoed in Johnson’s ears, it was simply “fast and furious”.  The new role had rejuvenated Johnson, a man that had received more criticism than any other Australian cricketer in the past few years.  Finally, Australia had rediscovered him and allowed him to bowl as a bowler that he was always destined to be.

 

Not surprisingly, it was the all the new additions that made the initial impact on England. Haddin’s 94 in the first Test was immeasurable and Johnson’s bowling impregnable.  Behind it all was the mastermind of Clarke and McDermott’s intellect.  The victory in Brisbane was straight forward, but the celebrations were more of aspiration and confirmation.

 

Importantly, Clarke had the nation believing.  There was no chance the captain was letting this opportunity slip; he backed it up with a superb ton in Adelaide that forced England into a corner.  Johnson and company followed the meticulous plans once gain and England had self destructed.

 

The seniors had shown the way in the first two tests and the youngsters followed it in Perth.  Clarke, Lehmann, McDermott and Haddin had been successful in merging and teaching the youth with the hardships of 90s. In the process the team had discovered the importance of not only winning the little urn, but winning back the fans that rightly have such high expectations of the Australian team.

 

The journey over the past six months not only has been about cricket, it had been about everything from change in players’ personalities to regaining the pride of the sporting nation.  No wonder the emotions ran dry as the last wicket fell in Perth.  Australia, you bloody beauty.

 

(Gaurav Joshi is an Indian-born Australian who played with Michael Clarke in his junior days. He coaches and reports for a Sydney radio station. Over the years he has freelanced for Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and is a regular on ABC cricket show Cow Corner. He is the author of the book “Teen Thunder Down Under” – The inside story of India’s 2012 U19 World Cup Triumph)

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