One must commend the ICC on the swift action they have taken against Darren Lehmann for his unsavoury and absolutely unacceptable tirade against Stuart Broad even if the punishment – 20 percent of his match fees – is not in keeping with the crime.
The Australian coach’s extraordinary outburst should have invited harsher punishment for such things are just not done. Not by a national coach, not more than a month after the incident took place. Also the choice of words was awful to say the least and indeed one wondered what his objective was in denouncing Broad in the manner he did.
If it was part of the mind games that the Aussies revel in, it is in danger of backfiring for England are clearly the superior team in the ongoing contest. Perhaps it was borne out of frustration for Australia have been outplayed in the series.
Whatever the reasons, there can be absolutely no excuse for Lehmann’s outrageous behavior. The 43-year-old former left handed Australian batsman had little choice but to plead guilty to breaching the relevant article of the ICC Code of Conduct which relates to "public criticism of, or inappropriate comment in relation to an incident occurring in an international match or any player, player support personnel, match official or team participating in any international match."
ICC chief executive David Richardson laid the charge and Lehmann admitted the offence and accepted the sanction proposed by match referee Roshan Mahanama who is overseeing the ongoing Test at the Oval. "Whilst noting the context and nature of the comments made, showing mutual respect for one’s fellow professionals – including coaches, players and match officials – is a cornerstone of how we play the game" observed Richardson.
The incident involving Broad occurred in the first Test at Nottingham nearly a month and a half ago and if at all Lehmann wanted to give vent to his feelings he should have done so at that time. But even at that stage, this kind of viciousness would have been uncalled for.
Terming Broad’s decision not to walk after he had edged a catch to slip on the third day of the match as 'blatant cheating', Lehmann then really took off on the England all rounder revealing that "the Aussie players haven’t forgotten and they are calling him everything under the sun as they go past. I hope the Australian public is the same because that was just blatant cheating."
He then crossed all limits by advocating that "the Australian public give it to him right from the word go for the whole summer and I hope he cries and goes home. I just hope everyone gets stuck into him."
All this was clearly courting trouble and Lehmann’s outrageous comments got the expected hostile reception. Cricket followers were quick to point out that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones and made a list of numerous occasions when Australian cricketers – including Lehmann – didn’t walk when they were clearly out besides finding fault with the coarseness of the language used.
Lehmann in the past has been found guilty by match referees and other officials for making racial comments and so he does not have a clean slate himself when it comes to prim and proper behavior. In any case one can always make a point in a responsible manner and Lehmann was clearly off the mark while firing his salvos.
But then diplomacy has never really been Lehmann’s forte. Following the shattering loss in the fourth Test at Chester-Le-Street, Lehmann warned of careers being on the line. "If they don’t learn we will find blokes that will. If they make the same mistakes then we have got to change and that’s a simple fact of cricket and results," he said referring to players who had not performed up to expectations.
When specifically asked whether Shane Watson would be considered for the Oval Test, Lehmann responded with "no one’s guaranteed of a place apart from Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers."
Right now it would appear that Lehmann is not guaranteed of his place. Indeed it would have been better if he had concentrated on evolving a strategy that turned things around for his beleaguered side instead of trying to rattle a supremely confident England team.
Lehmann has already got a taste of how such things can backfire. If as he says the Aussie players haven’t forgotten and are calling Broad everything under the sun as they go past him, England’s leading all rounder responded with career best Test figures of eleven for 121 in starring in his team’s victory in the fourth Test.
There have been tactical errors down the line and Lehmann cannot escape the blame for his side being 3-0 down in the series. Correcting these and uplifting his squad’s morale should be the top priority for a coach instead of indulging in untimely and unseemly mind games that badly misfire and lead to being disciplined by those in authority.