Lehmann's return to Heat a line in the sand

07 March 2019

New Brisbane Heat mentor comes back to the coaching game having endured some 'dark days' following the events of Cape Town

And just like that, Darren Lehmann is back. In front of the biggest media throng at Queensland Cricket's (QC) headquarters this summer, Lehmann held his first press conference as Brisbane Heat coach, his first such role since resigning as Australia's men's team head coach amid the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal.

Ironically, given the 48-year-old was cleared of any wrongdoing regarding the saga, he has served what amounts to three weeks short of a year out of the coaching game, excluding a small mentoring role at the National Cricket Centre which saw out his contract with Cricket Australia.

In that time, he said today, he endured "dark days" before "falling in love with the game again".

The appointment will invariably polarise. Upon resigning as Australia head coach, Lehmann conceded he was "ultimately responsible for the culture of the team" and there are those who maintain he avoided the sort of severe penalty that was imposed on the guilty trio of players.

On the flipside, the Heat's decision could well mark a line in the sand. Lehmann beat out three other strong candidates in Queensland pair Wade Seccombe and James Hopes, and former Heat captain Brendon McCullum. By no means were they short of options.

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And as Steve Smith and David Warner ready themselves for a return to the pointy end of the game, Lehmann's return – viewed through that context – could well be seen as timely. Certainly the man himself was today understandably eager to look ahead, even as he was bombarded with questions focused upon the ball-tampering scandal and the subsequent fallout.

"That hurt a lot of people, didn't it? All of us involved," he said of the events in Cape Town. "It's time to move on though.

"The game of cricket is bigger than any incident, so for us it's about moving forward.

"I think you learn a lot about yourself in dark times. So for me it's about enjoying the game … getting the next generation (of players) through, have them playing well for the Heat and then hopefully Australia.

"Yep (the criticism hurt). Mainly because when we won four-nil against England, there were no attacks on the culture then.

"But you understand that, that's what happens when something like that happens. You have to take stock of that as a coach, work out what's right and what's wrong, and move forward."

Lehmann intimated at the beginning of the summer that he was eager to one day coach again, provided the role was right for him and his family; he reiterated today that he had no inclination to coach an international side again, due to the taxing workload and the "300 days a year" spent on the road.

In that regard, it is little wonder he found the application process for the Heat job "nerve-wracking" – based in Brisbane (these days Lehmann's home city), and offering a less onerous commitment from March through November, the role appears his ideal fit.

While QC chief executive Max Walter insisted Lehmann's appointment was not about past glories, the mentor's BBL|02 title success must surely have at least been a factor in his favour, while his extensive international network is also believed to have tilted the decision towards him.

"I love the support I've had from the (QC) board – I'm very grateful for it," he said. "I started my coaching career in Queensland, and then Brisbane Heat, so to come back to where it all started is quite exciting."

An Ashes and World Cup winner as a coach, few would question Lehmann's credentials. Now the onus is on him to turn around what has in recent seasons been an ailing franchise. Under Daniel Vettori, Brisbane won just 10 of 24 matches across BBL|07 and BBL|08, failing to make the finals on both occasions.

In 2019-20, they will be without McCullum, leaving Lehmann to recruit at least one international player – a task that could be pivotal in his team's success in BBL|09.

When he arrived for today's press conference, he was smiling warmly and shaking hands with a host of familiar faces in the press pack – which through his role as a radio commentator, he was a part of this summer.

He said that stint "just watching and talking about the game" reinvigorated him, and renewed a deep-seated love for cricket that had gone missing in the months prior.

Now, with the Heat, he returns to the hot seat.

Ashes 2019

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Brisbane Heat Men