Panic on the streets of London
Here's how England can get their heads out of a hole and into the right place according to former fast bowler Geoff LawsonPT5M57S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2z5ik 620 349 December 11, 2013
If there is any one word that sums up Australia's year of Test cricket it is contrast.
From the devastation of Hyderabad and Lord's to the utter jubilation of Brisbane and Adelaide it has been one heck of a ride.
Lehmann has realised that it's not his primary job to plan for five years down the track or worry about a player's date of birth.
As players sat around on the floor of the new Adelaide Oval dressing-room at lunch on Monday, soaking up their latest thrashing of England, the woe they have endured this year could hardly have been further from their minds.
The Boof factor: Darren Lehmann places great store in the ritual of the post-match beer, yet the coach is no pushover, being firm when the situation demands. Photo: Getty Images
It is easy to forget it is only nine months ago the national team sank to as crippling a low as could be remembered. If they were an economy, the events of Mohali in early March signalled, if not a depression, certainly a serious recession.
Too much is made of the actual ''homework'' affair, in which four players were stood down from the third Test in India. It was not in itself the reason for the team's sharp decline, simply the point where the deep problems within it were laid bare. What the episode uncovered was evidence of a team and an organisation, Cricket Australia, that had lost the plot.
So what has changed since? Well, just about everything.
Bond: the Australian team celebrate as one after sealing victory in the second Test. Photo: AFP
For starters, the whole idea of rebuilding has gone out the window. There was a school of thought voiced by at least one selector that if two candidates for the Test team were of similar ability and in comparable form then they would always go for the younger one.
Mickey Arthur, a good man blamed for much more than he deserved, even indicated in the wake of his sacking in June that Australia had not really considered themselves much of a chance in England this year, and that the idea was to gain confidence in order to spring an upset at home.
As it turns out that is exactly what they've done, or nearly done, but looking three steps ahead at the expense of the present presumably will not happen under his successor.
On the backburner: Wildcard selections like Ashton Agar have been canned for now, with experienced campaigners favoured. Photo: Getty Images
Darren Lehmann is all about here and now. It's why Ryan Harris was never going to be rested in Adelaide. Better to throw him at England again, in the hope of going 2-0 up, than preserve him for Perth.
''At the moment we're just thinking about Perth on Friday,'' says one of Lehmann's lieutenants, bowling coach Craig McDermott. ''We're not worrying about the next series in South Africa, or who is going to the IPL or whatever. We don't really care about any of that.''
Players are also feeling more comfortable about their positions, doing wonders for self-belief. Easy to say when a team is winning, of course, but gone are the wildcard selections of Glenn Maxwell, Xavier Doherty, Ashton Agar or, as was mooted ahead of the series, Fawad Ahmed. The funky stuff has been shelved and what is being picked is now the best XI.
It might contain two 36-year-olds and six others who are the wrong side of 31 but Lehmann has realised that it's not his primary job to plan for five years down the track or worry about a player's date of birth. Simon Katich, it can be assumed, would never have been shown the door in this set-up.
After fielding 16 players in four matches in India and then 17 over five Tests in England, there is also a much-needed sense of stability building. Again this seems straightforward while they're winning, but back in August, Lehmann forecast an intention to ''pick and stick'' this summer whatever the result, which former players from Ricky Ponting down were crying out for.
Before Brisbane they named just a 12-man squad, nothing like the excessive 17 listed prior to England's last visit three years ago, and not even the 13-man group it was suspected they might settle on.
Elsewhere, the sports science side - the wellbeing charts filled out daily, the ''informed player management'' policy - are still in the background but are not getting the external focus they previously did, mainly because CA are not pushing those messages any more.
Pat Howard, Lehmann's boss and CA's general manager of team performance, has taken a noticeable backwards step, at least publicly. During the Arthur-Clarke duopoly he was everywhere, right down to engaging in a slanging match with Shane Watson, played out in the media after the Mohali fiasco.
Lehmann's real victory, though, in all of this has been in repairing and reinventing the team dynamics, making them want to play for each other and for him. The blank stares, the cliques and disharmony are gone, ironed out in what Lehmann described as one of his favourite tours despite the 3-0 defeat in England. The re-entry of senior players such as Harris and Brad Haddin can only have helped, and Clarke stepping aside as a selector was also important. But the coach has also managed to master the tightrope of demanding respect and at the same time enjoying a great rapport with his charges.
Players have said privately that when Arthur was coach they were afraid of having a beer in the dressing room after a day's play. Now they talk in news conferences about the importance of enjoying a win. You can't imagine Lehmann is counting the number of empty cans beside each player.
''It's a very relaxed atmosphere. 'Boof' is a strict coach as well as being relaxed,'' says McDermott, brought back onto the staff by Lehmann. ''That's a good person to be around. I'm certainly enjoying it from that side myself, and I know the players are as well. It's a great camp to be around at the moment and it's even better when you're up 2-0.''
The finer detail of the Lehmann operation is noticeable if you watch closely. Keep an eye on McDermott during a day's play and he will often circle the ground, maybe speaking to reborn quick Mitchell Johnson when he's at fine leg.
''I just see what he wants for lunch,'' McDermott jokes. ''You talk about different things all the time. It might be just stuff … normal everyday things, what's going in each other's lives, family, those sorts of things. It doesn't always have to be cricket, because if you're cricket 24/7 your head is going to explode.''
The fast bowling cartel of Johnson, Harris and Siddle is a microcosm of the new, improved environment. ''They're all great mates and to see them on the dressing room floor [on Monday] afternoon sitting around all close together talking about the game and having a beer is what it's all about at the end of the day,'' McDermott says. ''If we can keep up that sort of camaraderie we're going to go really well.''
This may not be one of the great Australian teams but they are a good one who, happy in their own skin, finally know who they are.