Aussie cricket coach Lehmann resigning after all

A couple of days ago there were reports that Australian cricket coach Darren Lehmann would resign in the wake of the ball tampering scandal while in South Africa.

Yesterday, after the scandal escalated with confirmation that sand paper rather than sticky tape was used, and the tamperer, the captain and the vice captain were all given lengthy bans, Lehmann was cleared of being involved and said he would stay as coach.

SMH: ‘I need to change’: Tearful Lehmann looks to New Zealand as model

Tears welling in his eyes, head cricket coach Darren Lehmann has pledged that the Australian team will change and so will he.

The Australian head coach has overseen a team with a hard and uncomprising edge that has been pilloried around the cricket world and at home, even before their crash last Saturday to an all-time low.

On Wednesday, there was softness as Lehmann stressed that the “human side” of the ball-tampering controversy needed to be understood, pleading for the culprits to be given a second chance.

The crying shame of it all is that it has taken such a terrible episode, tarnishing careers and changing lives, for Lehmann and what is left of the side to look themselves in the mirror.

The coach has endorsed an attitude of stretching the limits of what is considered acceptable, content to win ugly if that is what it takes. Headbutting “the line”, as they liked to say. It was an approach that was the poisonous foundation for what took place at Newlands.

That is all over. Winning, suddenly, isn’t all that matters. They are putting a line through the line.

“I need to change,” Lehmann said.

“We need to change how we play and within the boundaries we play. Obviously previously we’ve butted heads on the line but that’s not the way to go about us playing cricket moving forward.

“We have to try and win the public back now and play the type of cricket that they expect us to play. We have to look at how we go about that, as a coach and support staff and playing group, and make the game better for everyone to play and enjoy watching us play.”

But a day later Lehmann has announced he will stand down after the fourth and last test against South Africa (that starts tonight).

SMH:  Darren Lehmann quits as coach of the Australian cricket team

An emotional Lehmann announced on Thursday that the fourth Test against South Africa would be his last in charge.

He said he had made the decision to resign after watching Steve Smith’s gut-wrenching press conference in Sydney as well as Cameron Bancroft fronting the media in Perth.

“The feeling is that Australian cricket needs to move forward and this is the right thing to do,” Lehmann said.

“My family and I have copped a lot of abuse over the last week and it’s taken its toll. Life on the road means a long time away from our loved ones and after speaking with them at length over the last few days, this is the right time to step away.

“I’m ultimately responsible for the culture of the team and I’ve been thinking about my position for a while. Despite telling media yesterday that I’m not resigning, after viewing Steve and Cameron’s hurting, it’s only fair that I make this decision.

“This will allow Cricket Australia to undertake a full review into the culture of the team to begin to implement changes to regain the trust of the Australian public. This is the right thing for cricket.”

I think this was inevitable. Lehmann is ultimately responsible for the ugly win by any means culture that had re-established itself under his guidance.

It will be a tough test for the Baggy Greens, without their captain and vice captain, without both their opening batsmen, without their two best batsmen. And with a coach rocked by the scandal and how it played out this week, and a team in upheaval.

There were awful scenes from the airport as Steve Smith left South Africa. He has disgraced himself but didn’t deserve to be treated so poorly.

It will be interesting to see the attitude the South African team takes on to the pitch, and how the crowd will treat the Australians in the outfield. They may wish they were in the outback.

Sandpaper escalation in Australian cricket scandal

Australia’s cricket cheating disgrace has got worse with the revelation that sandpaper was being used to tamper with the ball. The main players have been given lengthy playing bans, but there are still questions unanswered.

SMH: Sandpaper, lies and videotape: Warner fingered by CA as architect

The twists and turns have just kept coming in Australia’s ball-tampering disgrace in South Africa with Cricket Australia admitting it was sandpaper and not tape that was used and that David Warner had been the architect, even instructing Cameron Bancroft how to cheat.

As Steve Smith and Warner received 12-months bans from playing for Australia – and were banned by India from the IPL – CA released a jaw-dropping charge sheet against the sacked captain and vice-captain and opener Bancroft, who has been suspended for nine months.

That is probably a career ending ban for Warner, who was also copped a life time banned from being captain again.

Smith is younger so would have time to try to get back into international cricket and into lucrative league deals, but that won’t be easy for him. Bancroft’s career may be over just after it started.

The most stunning revelation was that it had been sandpaper, and not a piece of yellow tape, that Bancroft had used to try and alter the condition of the ball at Newlands and then hid down his pants in full view of the television cameras.

However, CA also lambasted Smith for making “misleading” public comments about the incident and confirmed Warner’s position at the heart of the scandal, banning him from ever captaining Australia.

The governing body’s investigation established that Warner had not only told Bancroft to take the sandpaper onto the ground, but had gone as far as giving Bancroft a tutorial on how to tamper with the ball.

Warner was found to have been behind the “development” of the plan and was alleged to have given “instruction to a junior player to carry out a plan to take steps to attempt to artificially alter the condition of the ball using sandpaper”.

Further, and most damningly, it was concluded that he provided “advice to a junior player regarding how a ball could be artificially altered including demonstrating how it could be done.”

Smith, who is prohibited from captaining Australia until a year after his ban expires, was also slammed for his part in the conspiracy and the attempted cover-up.

Smith was also found to have been guilty of “seeking to mislead match officials and others” about Bancroft’s conduct on the field.

At this stage coach Darren Lehmann has been cleared, and is now saying that Australia should learn from new Zealand’s approach to cricket – playing hard but fair, something Australia were known for a long time ago.

But there are still question marks.

It would be remarkable if the captain and vice captain planned to cheat by doctoring the ball without the coach’s knowledge. At the very least it suggests a corrupt culture they operated in, which is the coach’s responsibility.

It would also be remarkable that the bowlers, who would have most benefited from ball tampering, had no knowledge that they may get artificial assistance.

The big question is whether this was a one off or whether it the Australian players have done it before, and if so, how much.

Warner seems to be well practiced in tampering, and until the recent test was the player in charge of looking after the match ball. He handed that responsibility over to Bancroft for the fateful test where this all turned to yellow custard.

The culture of Australian international cricket is also in the spotlight, where a win by any means attitude has been obvious for some time (since Lehmann took over).

SNH: ‘What the f— is going on?’ The words that cleared Darren Lehmann

Cricket Australia has moved to distance Darren Lehmann from the ball-tampering crisis, saying he had radioed down to substitute Peter Hanscomb to tell him to ask “what the f— is going on” rather than to tell Cameron Bancroft that he had been sprung with a piece of sandpaper.

Lehmann said he was “confident it’s an isolated issue and a grave mistake”, although he could not be sure his team had not previously engaged such tactics.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who wonders whether the team had an arrangement where the coach effectively had a policy of ‘do what you want but don’t get caught and don’t connect me to it’.

The head coach maintained that the first time he had realised it was sandpaper that Bancroft was using – not tape as the opener had originally explained – was after the CA investigation had been completed.

While he has been cleared by CA of any responsibility for the conspiracy to cheat, Lehmann has been targeted elsewhere for overseeing a team culture that had deteriorated to the point where such reprehensible behaviour was allowed to happen.

That will be a key discussion point of an independent review of the team’s culture that has been announced.

“I’ve got no doubt that he feels some sort of personal responsibility for that,” Sutherland said.

He may well do.

Australian cricket cheating – interim aftermath

Cricket Australia has just announced that they have stood down captain Steve Smith, vice captain David Warner and ball tamperer Cameron Bancroft for the rest of the South African tour. As the tour  is just about over one could wonder if this is just an interim step. News reports coming in say “heavy sanctions to follow”.

SMH: Smith, Warner and Bancroft sent home, heavy sanctions to follow

Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft will be sent home from South Africa after being reported by Cricket Australia and they are facing “significant sanctions,” CA’s chief executive James Sutherland said.

It will be another 24 hours until the penalties against players are handed down due to an ongoing investigation but Sutherland indicated CA would come down hard.

He said it had been established that only three players had prior knowledge of the ball-tampering episode. He also denied that coach Darren Lehmann was resigning.

Despite news reports that coach Darren Lehmann would resign that hasn’t happened (yet), the investigation found that he was not in on the ball tampering scheme. That may clear him of direct involvement, but it raises questions about his authority and the team culture if players tried to cheat without his knowledge.

There has been a big rift in the team over this.

SMH: Players turn on David Warner as ball-tampering crisis rips team apart

The ball-tampering crisis that has brought Australian cricket to its knees turned nuclear on Tuesday night with players turning on David Warner amid claims that the deposed vice-captain may never play for his country again.

The deposed vice-captain removed himself from the team’s WhatsApp group in the midst of the unprecedented drama. Warner and Steve Smith, who were both facing losing their leadership roles as well as having bans imposed for their part in the cheating plot, walked through Cape Town airport surrounded by hordes of television cameras and reporters.

Fairfax Media reported exclusively on Monday night that Warner had emerged as the central character in the affair, with suggestions he was the primary figure behind the ill-fated decision for Cameron Bancroft to use a piece of yellow tape to try and alter the condition of the ball during the third Test.

Sources close to Warner had denied that he was the instigator, saying the whole team were aware of the plans, including Australia’s fast bowlers. Their belief was that if one or two players were to go down over the controversy, then all should.

Senior fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, as well as the team’s most capped player, Nathan Lyon, had distanced themselves from knowledge of the ploy soon after Smith’s claim after the day’s play on Saturday that the decision had been made by the “leadership group”.

The major disharmony between Warner and others in the team has led to suggestions from prominent figures within the game that he may never play for the country. Sources say that players do not want to set foot on the field with him again.

Warner had previously been the team’s appointed ball manager in the field, but after gaining attention for wearing a bandage over his hand and fingers in Port Elizabeth in the previous match, the task was then left to junior team member Bancroft, who was deemed less likely to go under the microscope of the operators of the local television broadcaster’s 30 cameras.

This is serious embarrassing for cricket in Australia. Smith and Warner would appear to have stuffed their careers, and also the future of Bancroft.

And this will hang over the team for a long time.