Australia skipper Steven Smith (arm outstretched) followed by head coach Darren Lehmann, media manager Kate Hutchison and a support staff member, walk to their Nariman Point hotel from the CCI, Churchgate after a press conference yesterday. Pic/SURESH KARKERA
Australia's Darren Lehmann is used to confronting tough challenges as a coach. After all, he's had the toughest initiation to coaching since being told to take over a disjointed team just a few days before an Ashes campaign in 2013.
Six months later, Lehmann coached the Aussies to a 5-0 whitewash against the arch-enemy, England. In the following year, they were crowned world champions for the fifth time under his regime, but even Lehmann has struggled to produce the magic formula to win away from home.
Under Lehmann's governance, Australia had toured every cricket-playing nation except Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and India. His record as a coach in those 20 matches stands at eight wins and 10 losses, but importantly, it's in Asia that Lehmann has failed to taste success after five Test matches.
That's why he realises that a good start against India in the first of four Tests in Pune on February 23 is crucial.
Australia's Test cricket captain Steven Smith (L) looks on as head coach Darren Lehmann speaks during a press conference. Pic/PTI
"We just want to play as well as we can. Starting well in the first Test in Pune is going to be the key, and starting here with the tour games we've got here as well," said Lehmann yesterday.
"I'm really happy with where the boys are at. Now, it's just a case of going out and playing well. As a coach, the whole group is excited by the challenge ahead," he added.
Apart from coaching, Lehmann also has the responsibility, along with the other selector, of picking the best XI to take the field with skipper Steven Smith. In Sri Lanka, Australia's combinations have been heavily criticised after they failed to pick Shaun Marsh in the first two Tests. The balance of the team is pivotal to Australia's success and having gambled with plenty of all-rounders in the past, the pressure will be on Lehmann, the selector, to pick the right team.
"In this day and age, we've got to work out what our best attack is to get 20 wickets. Whether it's an all-rounder and two spinners or an extra spinning all-rounder, we'll wait and see what wicket we get in Pune," he said.
Whichever team Lehmann backs, one thing is for sure — this Test series will test him like no other in his coaching regime.