Qantas Tour of South Africa
Lehmann admits need for change
Australia coach spoke for the first time in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal that has rocked world cricket
Sam Ferris in Johannesburg
29 March 2018, 06:03 AM AEST
An emotional Darren Lehmann broke his silence on Wednesday afternoon, confirming he has not resigned, that he needs to change and that his side can look to their trans-Tasman neighbours as role models as Australia enter a new era.
Lehmann had been unable to explain his side of the story of the Cape Town ball-tampering incident while Cricket Australia’s investigation was ongoing, but following the release of the findings last night – which saw Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft banned – the Australia coach delivered a prepared statement before fielding questions at the team hotel in Johannesburg.
Lehmann made it clear that neither he nor the rest of the support staff had any idea about the plan to tamper with the ball in the Cape Town Test, and only found out sandpaper was used once the investigation was over, having been told by the players involved at tea and after play on day three that it was sticky tape.
His silence in the days following the incident fuelled speculation that he would resign as head coach, but as CA chief executive James Sutherland stated on Monday, Lehmann reaffirmed he would not be stepping down from the role.
Australia’s team culture has come under fire in the wake of the scandal that sent shock waves through cricketing world, from the way the team behaves on the field to the way they are perceived by the public.
Lehmann’s charges have prided themselves on their aggressive nature on the field, whether that be with attacking game play or the use of sledging to unsettle their opponents.
But that approach appears to be past its used by date and Lehmann says the manner in which New Zealand play the game, who let their talents with the bat and ball do the talking, could be the blueprint the Australians use to rebuild their image and playing style.
"We need to change how we play and within the boundaries we play," Lehmann said.
"Obviously, previously we've butted heads on the line but that's not the way to go about us playing cricket moving forward.
"The thing for me would be if we take a leaf out of someone like New Zealand's book, the way they play and respect the opposition.
"We do respect the opposition but we push the boundaries on the ground.
"So, we've got to make sure we're respecting the game, its traditions, and understanding (how) the game holds itself around the world."
The Lehmann who fronted the Australian travelling media on Wednesday was a sombre version of the usually upbeat man who has coached the national men’s team since the 2013 Ashes in England.
While he kept his emotions in check throughout the 20-minute press conference, the 48-year-old appeared to fight back tears when he was talking about the pain his players have gone through, in particular the three suspended players.
"The players involved have been handed down very serious sanctions and they knew they must face the consequences," he said.
"They have made a grave mistake, but they are not bad people. As a coach, you feel for them as people. They are hurting. I feel for them and their families.
"There is a human side to this. They have made a mistake, as everyone – including myself – has made mistakes in the past.
"These are young men and I hope people will give them a second chance. Their health and wellbeing is extremely important to us."
Lehmann quashed rumours there had been a rift between the squad and Warner for his role as instigator of the sandpaper use.
"The feeling's fine towards Davey," Lehmann said.
"They (the Test squad) are obviously feeling for him and no such animosity that I know of.
"As a group, we're just trying to stick together and actually get back on track and look after those three (banned players) the best we possibly can in this difficult time for them.
"David's feeling it like everyone else."
And Lehmann battled to hide his emotion as he spoke about the departing captain Smith, who is not eligible to lead his country again for at least 24 months.
"We've lost a great young man that's again made a mistake," he said.
"We all love him, the public love him.
"At the moment, obviously it's hard for him and his family. I feel for him.
"He's going to come back a better person there's no doubt about that, and to see the hurt in him over the last three or four days I've spent a lot of time with him, just being around him, you feel for him."
Qantas tour of South Africa
South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Quinton de Kock, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, AB de Villiers.
Australia squad: Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, Matt Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights
First Test Australia won by 118 runs. Scorecard
Second Test South Africa won by six wickets. Scorecard
Third Test South Africa won by 322 runs. Scorecard
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage