Aussies and England make interesting calls

Australia

A couple of things have happened during the past week that may just have turned the Ashes into a more interesting series. Both England and Australia have made bold declarations of intent.

A couple of things have happened during the past week that may just have turned the Ashes into a more interesting series. Both England and Australia have made bold declarations of intent.

However, it appears the Aussies have made a necessary call in replacing Mickey Arthur as coach. Alternatively, England may have pushed a future star into the firing line a little too early.

After the rather austere and uptight reign of Arthur, the response to Darren Lehmann's appointment has been almost universally popular. He is very much 'old school' in this day of sports science and fitness fanaticism.

In his first press conference as coach, Lehmann said: "It's important to talk about the game whether it's with a beer or a Diet Coke, I don't care." This caused a worried response from serial tweeter and rent a quote expert Michael Vaughan: "For the first time in Months I am worried about Australia. If Darren Lehmann is the coach he will get them right."

Vaughan should know. The burly South Australian helped the former England skipper when he was a young buck coming through the ranks at Yorkshire. In 88 championship games for the county, Lehmann scored 8,871 runs at an average of 68.76, signing off with 339 against Durham, which helped Yorkshire avoid relegation by a single point.

Former Aussie room-mate Damien Fleming has said that 'Boof' "smoked, drank and snored like a rioting elephant, but one look at his international record shows he did the business on the pitch.

He had a truncated Test career, it is true, but averaged 45 in 27 games, only losing his place to the then golden boy he will now be assisting – Michael Clarke.

As a coach, he has got results, taking the 2009 IPL with Deccan Chargers. He then took Queensland to Sheffield Shield success in his first season in charge as well as two domestic one-day trophies.

Despite the rather relaxed attitude to his own fitness, Lehmann has strong team principles. Kings XI Punjab player Manan Vohra, who made his IPL debut under the 43-year-old, said, "If he calls for a meeting, be it at the swimming pool or ground, one has to be 10 minutes before time. Even if we are about to party after a victory, coming late is a grave sin."

If anything, Lehmann is more of an advocate of getting match fit through cricket sessions rather than gym drills. He is very much game oriented.

On the very same day that Lehmann was approved, Geoff Miller, the national England selector, described Joe Root as "currently the best opening partner" for Alastair Cook. Cook went on to suggest that Root has been adaptable in all three form of international cricket and that he opens for Yorkshire.

All of this is completely true. However, it would not have gone unnoticed by Australia that, as a middle order batsman in Tests, Root has immediately got out to the new ball on a few occasions.

Root is calm, composed and has the ability to become a world class batsman. However, this late switch by England may have given a rejuvenated opponent the ideal target upfront.

After scoring 81 for Somerset against the tourists, the ousted Nick Compton is now switching counties to play for Worcestershire against the Australians. It adds to the feeling that Miller and company are not totally sure themselves.

Lehmann's response to confirming Shane Watson would be opening in the Ashes was far more relaxed: "Shane, yeah, he'll be opening for us." Maybe it's nothing, but Australia might just have won a mini battle already.

<b>Tim Ellis</b>

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