The Boof takes charge of Australia’s Ashes Quest

Chloe Saltau in the Sydney Morning Herald

For the 2005 Ashes tour, in the aftermath of Darren Lehmann’s retirement,  Australia propped a small, rotund Shrek doll at the front of the team bus to  ensure that the spirit of ‘Boof’ lived on. On Monday in Bristol, Lehmann returned as coach of Australia to declare  Australia could still, despite all the on-field malfunctions and dressing room  ructions of the past few months, win the Ashes. Whether or not that is possible  in the current mess, it was easy to see why his refreshingly simple blueprint  appeals to his players.

“Yes, definitely,” Lehmann said of the Ashes. “It’s a challenge for all the  playing group and everyone involved in Cricket Australia. The team is going to  play a certain way, an aggressive brand of cricket that entertains people and  fans but also gets the job done.

“There won’t be any ongoing problems. We will get everything right on and off  the field. It’s important to talk about the game whether it’s over a beer or a  diet coke, I don’t mind being perfectly honest.

  </ifr”It’s about learning the game and improving our skills on and off the field  and that’s what we’re about, this journey over the next two months.”

Lehmann made it clear, as Queensland coach, that he would have handled the  Mohali homework fiasco differently –  “What are we doing????? Adults we are, not  schoolboys” – he tweeted at the time. Now it will be intriguing to discover  whether he will be allowed to impose the appealing mix of toughness and love  that has been a feature of his successful tenure with the Bulls, in a corporate  culture of wellness surveys, benchmarks and strict player management presided  over by executive general manager (team performance) Pat Howard.

As a past president of the Australian Cricketers’ Association, Lehmann is a  players’ man but has his own code of discipline. “It’s tough [to strike the  right balance], but it’s all about honesty, dealing with anything that comes up  straight away. Leave no stone unturned, make sure you have dealt with every  issue straight away,” he explained. “I will care about the players. Mickey  [Arthur] cared about the players and that is the first thing as coach, make sure  you look after your players as best you can, and that’s what I’m about.”

Whatever happens on the field as Australia tries to rise above its panicky  recent performances, it’s unlikely Lehmann will find himself in the situation  that undid Arthur. Intimations of a player mutiny are overblown, but the  cultural problems culminating with the David Warner nightclub incident suggested  the South African, a decent and affable man, did not have the complete trust of  his players.

The links between Clarke and Lehmann stretches back to 2004, when the veteran  batsman offered to give up his place in the Test team to the brilliant young  batsman who had danced to a century on debut in Bangalore. That illustrated  Lehmann’s passion for teaching young cricketers, who on Arthur’s watch have  failed to uphold the standards of Lehmann’s generation. To that end, the new  coach will open the dressing room to past players in the hope they can inspire a  revival, with Shane Warne an early favourite to break from his commentary duties  and help the team in England.

“The past legends, that’s what we’re about as well, having guys coming in and  having some sort of input,” Lehmann said. “He is always welcome as is anyone who  has represented Australia in our dressing room.”

The Shrek doll on the team bus illustrated the respect and affection Lehmann  will inspire in the job. But as he prepared to bring the players together in  Taunton for a fresh start, doubtless over a cold drink, he was under no  illusions about the future. “At the end of the day if we don’t win I’ll go,  that’s what happens.” Just ask Mickey Arthur.

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