Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland has praised outgoing head coach Darren Lehmann and vowed to see Australian cricket through the devastating ball-tampering saga.
Lehmann announced yesterday in Johannesburg that the fourth Test against South Africa starting today will be his last as head coach.
The 48-year-old said having watched banned players Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith overcome with emotion as they fronted the media back in Australia, now was the right time to step away as Australian cricket fights its way through the mess caused in Cape Town.
Sutherland, who was on deck in Bristol, England when Lehmann was appointed head coach in June 2013 less than a month out from the first Test of an Ashes series, paid tribute to the man affectionally known as ‘Boof’ and his time as the men’s national team.
“He’s provided a fantastic service but he’s also been a part of a very successful team that has achieved a lot in his time as coach,” Sutherland told reporters in Johannesburg on Thursday afternoon.
“They won a World Cup in 2015, a couple of winning Ashes series and at various times during the course of his tenure, the team in various formats has gone to No.1 in the world.
“I’ve seen first-hand the pride in which he’s gone about his work, the love he has for the job, his incredible work ethic and I think one of the things that really strikes me about Darren Lehmann and his character as a coach is the way he genuinely cares for and loves his players.
“I have huge regards and respect for the way he’s gone about his job over the time he’s been coach of the Australian men’s team.”
Sutherland said CA will be take its time in selecting Lehmann’s replacement given Australia’s next international assignment is a five-match one-day international series in England in June.
“I wish the team the best for the last Test with Darren in charge,” he said.
“I know there is a lot of talented coaches in the coaching ranks back in Australia, but I also reflect on the fact that amongst international cricket there are a number of coaches that are performing very well.”
Lehmann’s resignation came as a shock given he had confirmed to the media less than 24 hours earlier he planned to stay on as head coach and that both he and the culture of the Australian team needed to change.
While Lehmann is exiting his post, Sutherland confirmed he has not considered stepping down as CEO and that he is driven to steer Australian cricket in the right direction after the series of negative incidents in South Africa.
“I’m absolutely committed to my job,” he said.
“My employment and tenure is a matter for the Board and Cricket Australia.
“I’m not resigning and in fact what’s happened over the last few days has only strengthened my resolve to ensure that Australian Cricket and the Australian cricket team gets back on track and back in a place where it has not only the full respect but the pride of the Australian community.”
While it has been a difficult and stressful week for Sutherland, Lehmann and the Australian team, no players have been more affected by the fallout of the ball-tampering scandal than the three players involved; Smith, Bancroft and David Warner.
All three players have been handed heavy sanctions by CA, and upon arrival in Sydney yesterday, Smith broke down with his father Peter standing behind him as he spoke about the toll the ordeal has taken on his family.
Sutherland made it known that CA and the Australian Cricketers’ Association are mindful of the health and welfare of the three players and their families in this extraordinary time.
Smith breaks down during emotional press conference
“One thing that I’d like to just add is before I close is that they (Smith, Warner and Bancroft) are obviously in a very difficult and sad place now, between CA and ACA, we will offer those players all of the support we possibly can, all of our welfare services and experts within our system but also outside,” he said.
“We will make sure we support the players and their families as best we can.
“I’m sure everyone at home understands the pressure and the difficult situation of those players, and I politely ask those in the public but more specifically those in the media to respect the privacy of the players and their families in what is obviously a very difficult time for them.”