Darren Lehmann… had to wait nine long years before he got to play for Australia © Getty Images
By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Darren Scott Lehmann, born on February 5, 1970, was an integral part of the dominating Australian side that ruled the One-Day International (ODI) arena in the late 90s and the 2000s. The left-hander was one of the cleanest strikers of the cricket ball with a wide range of shots. It wasn’t his batting alone that added value as he could bowl useful left-arm orthodox to support the frontline bowlers. While he continued to be a vital cog in their ODI setup, a Test berth was shaky and he couldn’t cement a spot in the long run.
While Lehmann made his First-Class debut at 17 in 1987-88, he had to wait for nearly nine years to don the Australia jersey. In 1996, he was handed an international debut in an ODI against Sri Lanka in Colombo. However, he had to wait until 1998 to get a more extended run in the side – a point after which he became a fixture.
As Lehmann grew in stature as a player in ODIs, a Test cap was on its way. During Australia’s tour to India in 1998, he donned the Baggy Green in the third Test at Bangalore. By then, Australia had already lost the series, but went to seal a consolation victory. Lehmann played his part in the victory with a knock of 52 in the only innings he batted. However, Test caps were hard to come by as he played five games in the next twelve months with a highest score 98 – and then he had to wait for more than three years for his next match.
Nevertheless, his stocks in one-day cricket continued to grow. In the middle-order, he played a crucial role in stabilising innings in case there were a few stutters. He also had the ability to finish the innings with a flurry. Perhaps, his most memorable moment came when he hit the winning runs in the 1999 World Cup final at Lord’s. At No 4, he was a link between the explosive top-order and middle full of game-changers.
While Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden (Mark Waugh before him) held on to the opening slot, Lehmann’s appearances there were limited. He opened on four occasions and scored a hundred and two fifties – which includes his highest score of 119.
Here is his ODI record:
Although Lehmann batted at No 4 in most of his ODIs, he was shuffled around a few times. Despite that, he managed to average 38.96 – which is a good number in ODIs. He could only pick 52 wickets in 117 matches, but an average of 27.78 shows that he may have been underused. With the world’s best bowlers on their side, the captain didn’t need to resort to his back-up options too many times and it shows the kind of strength Australia had then.
Darren Lehmann in action against Sri Lanka at Marrara Oval in 2004 © Getty Images
In Test cricket, Lehmann only got a longish run from 2002 to 2004. He played important roles in Test series wins in the West Indies in 2003 and Sri Lanka in 2004. In that interval, he enjoyed a consistent run and scored all of his five Test centuries. He was also handed the vice-captaincy on the tour to India in 2004 as Ricky Ponting was missing due to injury and Gilchrist led the side.
Lehmann’s Test record:
Lehmann’s final Test was the Boxing Day affair against Pakistan in 2004 and a few months down the line – he played his last ODI – which was the final of the tri-series that season. For the opportunities he got, he did well to serve his country and deserves credit for his record.
Darren Lehmann in front of his statue after it was unveiled at the Adelaide Oval before Day Two of the Fourth Test Match between Australia and India at Adelaide Oval on January 25, 2012 © Getty Images
In domestic circles, Lehmann was highly respected and continued to play for South Australia until 2007. In his final game, his teammates carried him off the field – which is a sign of ultimate regard and appreciation. Today, his bronze figure stands at the Adelaide Oval and it does reflect his contribution to his state side. His association with cricket hasn’t ended there as he continues in the capacity of a coach. In 2009, in partnership with his former-teammate Gilchrist, he led Deccan Chargers to a memorable triumph at the Indian Premier League. The same partnership is hoping for the same as they reunite this year at the Kings XI Punjab.
A cursory glance at his First-Class record below leaves one with the inescapable thought he could have achieved a lot more if he had got more chances at the international level and at the right time.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)