Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland has defended the shock decision to sack coach Mickey Arthur just over a fortnight before the start of the Ashes, insisting his organisation had no choice but to act.
Arthur was yesterday replaced by Darren Lehmann just 16 days before the first Test against England begins, following some poor performances on the pitch and a series of disciplinary issues off it.
Sutherland was keen to stress the need to make a change rather than look back on the summer and ask what might have been.
“The timing is far from ideal but we didn’t feel we could sit back and hope matters would change without addressing issues critical to a high-performing team culture,” he said at a press conference in Bristol yesterday lunchtime.
“It obviously isn’t the type of change we want to make three weeks out from the Ashes commencing but we believe a change is needed. This has been a difficult decision to make but one that we feel is necessary.
“We are looking to establish a high-performing Australian cricket team that is consistent over a period of time.”
Lehmann will replace Arthur with immediate effect and was due to meet the whole squad at a meeting last night in Taunton, and Sutherland believes they have appointed the right man to lead Australia to Ashes success.
“Darren Lehmann is, to us, the obvious choice to come in and replace Mickey,” he said. “As a cricketer and a coach he has an outstanding record, he’s very highly regarded in cricket and within the Australian team.
“His performances recently as coach of Queensland and the Brisbane Heat have seen him win titles in all three formats of the game. We’ve recognised that by giving him development opportunities as a coach, most recently as assistant coach to the Australia A team here in England.
“His performances over that time have been very impressive and by being here now and ready to come into the role we’re confident he will be able to take a running start at this job.”
Arthur’s regime was marked by inconsistent results, including a 4-0 Test series defeat in India during which four players were controversially dropped from the third Test for failing to complete a “homework” assignment on how the team could improve. There have been further issues over David Warner, who was fined over a Twitter altercation with two journalists and was then fined again and banned until the start of the Ashes after throwing a punch at England’s Joe Root in a bar following the Champions Trophy clash between the two sides.
Lehmann has signed a two-year deal as Arthur’s replacement and summed up his priorities as: “Probably ‘win, win, win’, for a start. This is a challenge for all of us to get ready for the first Test, compete and be consistent. It’s going to be an exciting journey for all the players and support staff and we’ll meet that head-on.”
Team captain Michael Clarke has also decided to stand down as a selector in another change confirmed yesterday.
“Being a selector is a full-time job and I’d much prefer to be concentrating on the boys,” he explained.