LONDON (AFP) – Darren Lehmann may not be a Don Bradman or a Dennis Lillee but as far as Tom Moody is concerned there's no one better placed to get the Australia side enjoying their cricket once again.
Lehmann, who played alongside Moody in the Australia World Cup-winning team of 1999, was named as the new coach of the national side just 16 days before the start of the Ashes after South African Mickey Arthur was sacked.
Arthur, the first foreign coach of the Australia team, was dismissed following a 4-0 series loss in India, where he controversially dropped four players from the Test side for failing to complete 'homework' requested by team management, and a disrupted start to the tour of England that saw David Warner suspended until next week's first Ashes Test for punching England's Joe Root.
During his playing days Lehmann, a talented batsman, was renowned as an 'old-school cricketer', fond of a drink and a smoke.
And while Moody, himself a former Sri Lanka coach, was quick to acknowledge the limits of what could be done from the sidelines, he said Lehmann's appointment would at least encourage the side to play uninhibited cricket.
"The Lehmann appointment, even though it's an off-field appointment -- they suddenly haven't inherited a Sir Donald Bradman in the batting line-up or a Dennis Lillee in the bowling line-up -- but what they have done is that they have secured a mentor, a coach who will provide an environment where players will feel free to enjoy themselves within limitations but to express themselves under pressure on the field of play without fearing the consequences if it doesn't go their way," Moody told an Investec media event in London on Thursday.
Moody said Arthur's fate had been sealed from the moment in India he dropped players from a Test side for reasons other than form or fitness.
"I said at the time it was a dramatic decision and it was going to be very hard for that current management to stay in control of that side because he's lost their trust.
"One of the most important things in the relationship between player and coach is trust.
"You've got to look at why guys are turning up five minutes late or wearing the wrong shirt. All those things do matter in a team environment, but it shouldn't result in losing a Test cap.
"The reasons are that, maybe, slowly, respect was being lost between player and management.
"It was inevitable the unfortunate situation with Mickey Arthur. I do feel for him because he's a good man and been a good coach over time. He had clearly lost control of that Australian cricket side and I think Cricket Australia sensed that."
Former Australia batsman Damien Martyn, who also played alongside Lehmann, said the new coach would help keep the players relaxed in the build-up to next week's first Test against Ashes-holders England at Trent Bridge.
"He had a great mental side. A lot of us were stressing ourselves out too much. Darren was like the David Hookes era of just sort of enjoying the game, having a beer with your team-mates, having a beer with the opposition and going out there and playing the game for the love of the game."
However, Martyn, who now lives in Queensland where Lehmann made his reputation as a coach, said the new Australia boss was no soft touch.
"With Darren his coaching has been 'we are going to have fun, we are going to enjoy it' but with Queensland he has sent guys home who are five minutes late for training. They can't train. He gives them a tongue-lashing as well."