Lehmann, down & out

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Shamik Chakrabarty | Updated: Aug 25 2013, 07:08am hrs
So, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has acted. It has fined Australia coach Darren Lehmann 20% of his match fee for his verbal tirade against England fast bowler Stuart Broad, but the matter is unlikely to end there. Lehmann has urged his fellow Australians to hound Broad during the return Ashes series in the winter and by doing so he has set a dangerous precedent. The battle Down Under is now going to be attritional, both on and off the field.

Sport thrives on mutual respect between professionals and by labelling Broad a cheat, Lehmann has crossed the line. Not only that, he exhorted the fans back home to get at the Englishman in such a way during the return series that Broad cries and goes home. It was a provocation of a dangerous kind. Lehmann, Boof to friends, is still angry over an incident that happened about a month and a half ago at Trent Bridge, when Broad had refused to budge after edging an Ashton Agar delivery to the keeper that was deflected to Michael Clarke at first slip. It was not Broads fault that umpire Aleem Dar missed the edge and the Decision Review System (DRS) was handicapped. In fact, Broad is honest enough to confess publicly that he indeed nicked the ball but didnt walk as this England side prided in winning at all costs.

Yes, I knew Id hit it. But if you look through the series and look at the Australian players who have nicked it and not walked, you could name severalWarner, Khawaja, Rogers, Smith, Clarke, Agar. Thats quite a lot of players to be a big issue, Broad said. It was not very straight forward. There was no sound and the ball deflected off the wicketkeepers gloves to slip, he explained. Lehmanns counter was vitriolic. Certainly our players havent forgotten. They are calling him everything under the sun as they go past, he said during an interview with an Australian radio station. Then came the attack. I hope the Australian public are the same, because that was just blatant cheating. I hope the Australian public gives it to him right from the word go for the whole summer and I hope he cries and he goes home.

Down and out, maybe it was Lehmanns method of throwing down the gauntlet at England before the return leg. Maybe he thought that it was his only escape route against a side which is far superior than the one he is in charge of. But it was certainly below dignity and very unbecoming of an Australian cricket team coach. And he now has the dubious distinction of being the first cricket coach to be fined by the games governing body for hitting out at an opposition player.

It is, however, unlikely that it will matter much to someone who was banned for five ODIs in 2003 for racially abusing a Sri Lankan player. Lehmanns appointment as Australia coach just before the Ashes created much halo in his country. That certainly has evaporated, not because of a 3-0 scoreline against his team, but because of his latest transgression.

In an ideal world, Broad should have walked after such a big edge. Then again, nobody walks these days. Adam Gilchrist was an exception who only proved the modern rule. At least, Broad didnt resort to hypocrisy. There are players who, even after the thickest of edges, pretend as if there was daylight between bat and ball. Broad should be lauded for not concealing the truth. About playing ruthless cricket and getting on to the minds of the rivals, it must be said that the Poms have learnt it from their antipodean brothers.

During Australias dominance over world cricket they were happy, bullying their opponents. Lehmann played a significant part in that group. Now, when England are paying the Australians back in their own coin, he must accept it sportingly and try to revive the flagging fortunes of his side. Ian Chappell has rightly said that basically Lehmann was calling all people who dont walk a cheat, which would include himself. While noting the context and nature of the comments made, showing mutual respect for ones fellow professionals, including for coaches, players and match officials, is a cornerstone of how we play the game, ICC chief executive David Richardson said, while imposing the fine on the Australia coach.

Cricket Australia was surprisingly quiet throughout the whole controversy. Hopefully James Sutherland & company will have a word or two with Lehmann after he returns home. Thats, however, the official process. Meanwhile, Lehmann has lost considerable respect after his recent indiscretion. He must redeem himself with a personal apology to the England speedster.