Darren Lehmann © Getty Images
Darren Lehmann © Getty Images

Australia coach Darren Lehmann broke his silence for the first time since the ball-tampering incident on Wednesday night with a prepared apology to the cricketing world. During the investigations, CA had also mentioned about setting up an independent review on the ‘code and conduct’ of the men’s team. Lehmann in his press conference admitted about fostering ‘headbutt the line’ attitude into the mindset of the players. Now, Lehmann wishes to undo that and pick a leaf from the books of New Zealand on how to play and respect the opposition.

This statement is nothing less than an irony, given the hyper-aggressive way they played against New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup. They attacked New Zealand both verbally as well as with the ball during the final. That appalling send-off that Brad Haddin gave Grant Elliott is still etched in the memory of ardent cricket fans. Elliott had several heated exchanges with Haddin during his innings of 83. Not just Elliott, Martin Guptill and Daniel Vettori, too, were verbally bashed by the Australians.

Brendon McCullum during the press-conference did not criticise the Australians. Rather he said, “It wasn’t really discussed within the group.” He mentioned it was not really New Zealand’s way of dealing with the issue. Michael Clarke, on the other hand, defended his side and said: “I can’t remember a player getting a send-off. Maybe I was too far from the action. Obviously it’s a World Cup final. There’s passion, there’s excitement, there’s adrenalin running through the guys’ bodies.”

Lehmann was the one to laugh it off then. Today, when a crisis has hit upon Australia, Lehmann wants to inculcate the hard working culture on the Australians.

Talking about the bringing a change in the Australian culture after the ball-tampering row, a shattered Lehmann said: “The thing for me would be if we take a leaf out of someone like, say, New Zealand’s book, the way they play and respect the opposition. We do respect the opposition but we push the boundaries on the ground. So we’ve got to make sure we’re respecting the game, it’s traditions, and understanding [how] the game holds itself around the world. I acknowledge James’ comments into the review of the culture of the team and the way we play our cricket and we are all open and ready to assist in this process. The team has been received quite negatively in recent times and there is a need for us to change some of the philosophies about the way we play.”

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Post this incident it is not just Lehmann who is heaping praise of New Zealand’s culture of playing good hard cricket. Joe Root, who is currently with his team in New Zealand for the two-match Test series, also echoed the same thoughts. Root upheld New Zealand’s desperation to win without much noise: “In terms of atmosphere on the field there might not be as much said verbally when you play against New Zealand. But you still get a sense that they’re playing good hard cricket. They go about things very much in their own way but you know you’re up against a side that are desperate to win. ’m not saying Australia don’t bring that to the table when you play against them, but it is a different atmosphere in my experience.”

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Meanwhile, Kane Williamson has come out in support of David Warner, his IPL teammate, after he and Smith were handed 12-month ban by CA. However, Williamson is shocked that too class apart players have committed a grave mistake: “He’s not a bad person by any means. They (Warner and Smith) have made a mistake, they have certainly admitted that and they are disappointed with that action so they will have to take that punishment, strong punishment that it is. But it’s a shame that two fantastic world class players made a mistake.”

During McCullum and coach Mike Hesson days, the duo had set up ‘hard but fair’ approach in the fair-play traditions of the game. Williamson agreed to that concept and wants to carry forward that momentum: “We take pride in our performance, in the way we go about things and we want to continue to do that.”

As for Warner and Smith, the duo have also been barred from playing in IPL 2018. Replacements for them is yet to be announced.