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Smith the man to forge new legacy

Coach Lehmann says skipper has will - and skill - to lead Australia to a new golden era

There are few people better qualified to rank and compare recent Australian Test captains than Darren Lehmann.

As a golden era of Australian cricket begun in the 1990s and continued through the early 2000s, Lehmann played under greats Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and finally Ricky Ponting, while he’d also gotten a glimpse of their forerunner Allan Border when he was named 12th man for the 1990 Sydney Test against Pakistan, before finally making his international debut under fill-in one-day skipper Ian Healy six years later.

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And that’s not to mention the mentoring role he played in shaping the leadership style of Michael Clarke in his second incarnation as Australia’s head coach.

So, after being asked whether he believes Steve Smith is cut from the same cloth as that legendary succession of leaders, Lehmann's lack of hesitation in responding affirmatively suggests he believes this current Test outfit are in good hands.

"I'm pretty sure he is," the 27-Test, 117-ODI former batsman told reporters in Dhaka six days out from the first Test against Bangladesh.

"The way he speaks and the way he wants us to play is pretty special. 

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"We've got a young group and we need Steven and David (Warner, vice-captain) to lead from the front. That's important for those guys, to make big runs and show the way, very much like the olden days if you like. 

"We're a young side and they're trying to create their own dynasty as such. 

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"He (Smith) is very proactive in the way we want to play. You'll see an entertaining brand (of cricket), but a really hard brand as well."

It's a brand of Test cricket Bangladesh last saw first-hand 11 years ago, when a weary Australian outfit won a two-Test series 2-0 but faced numerous scares against their plucky hosts.

While the Ponting-led side had only seven months earlier been dethroned in England, losing their first Ashes series in nearly two decades, the touring party still boasted a formidable collection of talent including the likes of Matthew Hayden, Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Stuart MacGill and a young Clarke.

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Lehmann, who was beginning his seventh and final county stint with Yorkshire while Australia played that series in Bangladesh, is aware the current crop of players don't yet inspire the same kind of fear his former teammates did.

This is a squad missing two of their most threatening bowlers from the recent tour of India in injured spearhead Mitchell Starc and axed spinner Stephen O'Keefe, while question marks remain over their collective ability to bat against high-quality spin on turning surfaces.

But given the current captain's own stated desire to create his own lasting legacy, and especially to improve Australia's poor Test record on the subcontinent, the coach believes Smith and his teammates could one day rank among those illustrious predecessors who wore the Baggy Green.   

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"I don't like to compare eras at all because the game's changed," Lehmann offered, before kindly obliging a request to do just that.

"Players can do so much more now with the bat and ball, so many more variations, they can hit the ball further, all those sorts of things. 

"Our generation, we had a once-in-a-generation star in Shane Warne, who was a pretty good bowler, and (Glenn) McGrath wasn't too bad, and all those sort of guys. 

"You’ve got Hayden, Ponting, Waugh, Waugh, you could just name the lot. 

"That’s the challenge for this group, creating their own dynasty. 

"In 10 years' time hopefully they're talking about (them) in the same breath. 

"That's what this group is trying to achieve, some really good cricket and (to) entertain people."

Australia in Bangladesh 2017

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Hilton Cartwright, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade.

Bangladesh squad: Mushfiqur Rahim (c), Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes, Shakib Al Hasan, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Sabbir Rahman, Nasir Hossain, Liton Das, Taskin Ahmed, Shafiul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Taijul Islam, Mominul Haque.


27-31 August First Test, Dhaka


4-8 September Second Test, Chittagong