Darren Lehmann's stated succession plan to see his former Test teammate Justin Langer installed as Australia's next coach will move a step closer to fruition when Langer takes charge of the touring team to the Caribbean next year.
Lehmann confirmed today that he plans to enjoy his first extended break since taking on the role of national coach in 2013 by sitting out the ODI tri-series featuring the West Indies and South Africa that will be played in in June.
Quick Single: Schedule for Caribbean tri-series announced
Langer, currently coaching the Alcohol.Think Again Warriors in the Sheffield Shield and Matador Cup as well as the Perth Scorchers in the KFC Big Bash League, will fill the job at international level for the first time in what is widely seen as a precursor to his eventual appointment as Lehmann's replacement.
Prior to his appointment in Perth, Langer worked as a specialist batting coach with the Australia team, a career change that came soon after his retirement after 105 Tests and more than 7,500 runs for Australia, predominantly as an opening batsman.
Langer with Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke in 2011 // Getty
And in October last year, Lehmann stated during a radio interview that "I believe he (Langer) will be the next coach of Australia".
However, Lehmann said he has no plans to step away from the job in the foreseeable future because he and his team have a number of unmet aspirations still to pursue.
Chief among those are the impending World T20 tournament (a title that Australia has yet to win), Test series in Sri Lanka and India within the next 15 months and the World Cup defence in the UK in 2019, the same summer that Australia will attempt to win the Ashes abroad for the first time since 2001.
"I haven't got an end date in mind, I'd like to go for a while yet," Lehmann, 45, said when asked if the reason for him taking a brief sabbatical amid a crammed touring schedule was designed to help prolong his own tenure as coach.
"There's no immediate plans at all (to hand over the reins) but it just gives me a longer break.
"He (Langer) will do a great job and the blokes are really comfortable about that, we've spoken about it and everything is fine.
"We've got a really good system at the moment, we seem to be playing well.
"Now it's a case of developing other coaches under you all the time and making sure they've got opportunities as well.
"I think his (Langer's) record speaks for itself as a coach.
"It's just a good chance for him to get back into the system and get to know the lads again."
Lehmann and Langer as Test teammates // Getty
Between the current Test series against the West Indies and the beginning of the 2016-17 Australian summer, the national men's team will play ODIs at home against India (next month), tour New Zealand for Tests and ODIs, compete at the ICC World T20 in India (with warm-up matches in South Africa), head to the Caribbean for the ODI tri-series, undertake a Test and limited-overs tour to Sri Lanka and return to South Africa for more ODIs.
That follows a 2015 schedule that saw Australia go from a full home summer into a successful World Cup campaign, Test matches in the Caribbean and then a lengthy Ashes Tests and subsequent ODI series in the UK.
"Looking back now, at the end of the Ashes campaign and the one-day series (that followed and ended last September) I was pretty much cooked," Lehmann said.
"You can't go that long in a run as such, the summer is easy at home but when you're on tour – I think that (UK) tour was four and half months at the end – you have to make sure you're fresh as best you can.
"We're always trying to give our (Bupa) support team staff a break and this this is the first real break I've had since I've taken over."
The decision for Lehmann to voluntarily stand aside means Langer will be granted "free rein" to bring his own ideas and philosophies to the job for the duration of the tri-series in the Caribbean, to which Australia plans to take a squad as close to full strength as is feasible.
Although it is unlikely that the 45-year-old former opener will be elevated to also fill Lehmann's role on the four-man national selection panel (alongside chair Rod Marsh, Mark Waugh and Trevor Hohns) that finalises the squad for that tour.
Lehmann with Steve Smith at the MCG nets // Getty
The move has the endorsement of Cricket Australia with Pat Howard, CA's Executive General Manager Team Performance, indicating it not only provides a chance for Lehmann to take a break but gives Langer an invaluable opportunity to further hone his coaching credentials.
Lehmann indicated that while he won't be heading to the Caribbean for the tri-series, he'll still be working during the period at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane where he can run an eye across the up and coming talent pushing for future national honours.
"Given the amount of cricket coming up on the international calendar, we've tried to find some time for Darren to plan and focus on the next period for the Australian side," Howard said.
"Justin Langer has done an outstanding job, taking his teams to the finals of our three domestic competitions last year, and winning two of them.
"He's also done a very good job preparing WA players to represent Australia.
"This appointment to cover the limited overs series in the Caribbean is a great reward for that excellent work."
While Lehmann readily acknowledges that his future as coach, in keeping with those who have come before him, will be dictated by team results and the commensurate assessment of the CA Board, he is keen to continue in the role through to the 2019 World Cup in the UK which will immediately precede the next away Ashes series.
Since taking on the role at short notice in 2013, Lehmann has overseen some notable successes including a five-nil Ashes whitewash in Australia in his first home summer, a subsequent Test series win in South Africa and this year's (almost) blemish-free World Cup campaign.
Langer with Adam Voges after WA's Matador Cup win in 2014 // Getty
But winning the Ashes in the UK remains a driving force to continue.
"Yeah, that's still a burning desire," Lehmann said when asked about the lure of gaining revenge for Ashes losses he has overseen in 2013 (when he took over from sacked former coach Mickey Arthur) and 2015.
"I think we let ourselves down this year - 2013 was a different scenario, we were changing the whole set-up so but this year was disappointing so I'd love to have a crack at that.
"But you can't look that far ahead.
"I don't think you can do it long, long term – not international coaching.
"You're away (from home) 300 days a year, so you've got to try to find a happy medium.
"I think you try to tick off all the boxes you want to as a coach, and hopefully you've achieved them, then it's probably someone else's turn.
"But you're dictated by results and (the judgement of) Boards and that's just the way it is.
"That's the joy of coaching."
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