Darren Lehmann was on Monday hailed as the “obvious choice” after replacing the sacked Mickey Arthur as Australia head coach just 16 days before the first Ashes Test in England following several embarrassing on and off-field incidents involving the team.
“The timing is far from ideal but we didn’t feel we could sit back and hope matters would change without addressing issues critical to a high-performing team culture,” Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland told a news conference in Bristol, southwest England.
“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.
“Mickey Arthur is a good man, he’s tried his utmost to do a good job and unfortunately, at the end of day he just hasn’t quite done that.
“We decided things weren’t improving — we could let things be as they are.”
Sutherland praised former Australia batsman Lehmann, who played 27 Tests, as the “obvious choice to replace Mickey”.
“As a cricketer and a coach he has an outstanding record, he’s very highly regarded in cricket and within the Australian team,” said Sutherland of Lehmann, who was appointed on a two-year deal.
“His performances recently as coach of Queensland and the Brisbane Heat have seen him win titles in all three formats of the game.
“We’ve recognised that by giving him development opportunities as a coach, most recently as assistant coach to the Australia A team here in England.”
Sutherland also confirmed that Australia captain Michael Clarke, currently sidelined with a back injury, would stand down as a selector.
Clarke, flanked by Lehmann in the third of three back-to-back news conferences, said: “We have a less experienced team after losing Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting [to retirement] but that’s not an excuse.
“We know the behaviour required to be an Australia cricketer. We know what performances are expected of us and we need to improve in both areas.
“I’m certainly accountable both on-field and off-field as captain.”
Clarke, explaining why he’d stood down as selector, said: “Being a selector is a full-time job and I’d much prefer to be concentrating on the boys.”
He added he’d been stunned by Arthur’s sacking. “Like everybody [I was] shocked at the time and then it was about trying to keep my focus on having success on this Ashes tour,” Clarke said.
“That’s the most important thing, that we make sure we are performing a lot better than we have so far on this tour and a lot better than on our most recent tour to India.”
The 43-year-old Lehmann has a reputation as an old-school coach, keen to encourage his players to socialise together.
“It’s important to talk about the game whether it’s with a beer or a Diet Coke,” Lehmann said Monday.
England hold the Ashes and Lehmann, asked what his three priorities were, replied: “Probably win, win, win’, for a start.
“It’s going to be an exciting journey for all the players and support staff and we’ll meet that head-on.”