Darren Lehmann accepted that his players had “copped a lot” of fair criticism before they emphatically halted a run of Test defeats against South Africa, adding that he would love to keep his new-look team together.
Lehmann said he was delighted with the experimental side, which featured five changes including three debutants, as Australia’s selection gamble paid off in the third Test against South Africa in Adelaide.
The Australians ended a five-Test losing streak with a commanding seven-wicket victory over South Africa after being well beaten in the previous two games of the three-Test series after a 3-0 whitewash in Sri Lanka.
“Well, we won,” said Lehmann on Monday (November 28) when asked what the difference was compared to the first two Tests, which left Australia on the verge of their first home Test series whitewash. “I’m just pleased for the players. The players have copped a lot over the last few weeks and they’ve responded really well. Obviously a change of players as well.
“You feel sad for the blokes who missed out in this Test match but the guys who came in did a really good job … a new young group going forward, really pleased for them.”
Lehmann said the door wasn’t closed for the players who were dropped, but added that he wanted to keep the new group together – if that were possible, with varying conditions and peaks and troughs in form.
“You’d love to have continuity all the time (but) in this day and age sometimes that’s not possible,” said Lehmann. “But you’d love to keep a group together, a younger group especially with David Warner being our oldest at 30.
“If you can keep the group together for five years or so, or whatever it is – until the older guys go – it makes it easier. But then you’ve got different conditions and blokes in and out of form. So you just have to sum it up along the way, but yeah it’d be lovely to do that.”
Lehmann’s coaching role came under the scanner during the run of defeats, which prompted Rod Marsh to step down as chairman of selectors calling for some “fresh thinking”.
One key criticism was the decision to rest Mitchell Starc and John Hazlewood for the 5-0 One-Day International series defeat in South Africa, with Faf du Plessis suggesting it gave his side a mental edge.
In Adelaide, Starc and Hazlewood hit form as they took 12 wickets between them to bowl Australia to victory in the day-night third Test in Adelaide.
Lehmann said there were no plans to rest them for the upcoming three-match ODI series against New Zealand – although he wasn’t sure if they would play every game. “(They will) play. We get in trouble if we don’t play (them) … They’re going to play. At some stage,” he said.
“We gave them a break, didn’t we? So they should get through the (Australian) summer. But we got in trouble for that as well. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
Straight-talking Lehmann also brushed off high-performance manager Pat Howard’s call for him to “reinvent”, saying, “I was going to wear a suit to the press conference. I didn’t. I chose not to.”