Lehmann expects approval for Smith’s elevation to captain

Australia's head coach Darren Lehmann anticipates Steve Smith, pictured, will replace the retiring Michael Clarke as captain.
Australia's head coach Darren Lehmann anticipates Steve Smith, pictured, will replace the retiring Michael Clarke as captain.
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Australia coach Darren Lehmann is ready to rebuild the side around Steve Smith after admitting Ashes defeat in England marks the end of an era.

Smith is the standout candidate to replace the retiring Michael Clarke as captain, having already done so in one-day cricket, and could find himself in charge of a much-changed squad.

Clarke and Ryan Harris have already retired this summer and the likes of Brad Haddin, Shane Watson, Chris Rogers, Adam Voges and Shaun Marsh also appear close to the end following England’s Ashes victory.

Former Yorkshire batsman Lehmann, who has already been told his job is safe by Cricket Australia, now faces the task of ushering in the next generation and it is a job the former all-rounder will not shy away from.

Asked if his squad had reached the end of the road, Lehmann said: “Yeah, probably. We’ve got a bit of thinking to do and reviewing what went wrong.

“There are going to be tough calls somewhere. We’re not afraid to make the tough call, but you’ve got to also look after Australian cricket in the right way and we’ve got to make sure we’re doing the right things by the players both old and new.

“We’ve got to pick and stick a little bit now and make sure we’ve got the right formula for different tournaments, different formats, and making sure we’re not just discarding players really quickly. So if we pick some young guys moving forward... we just have to stick with them a bit and ride the wave. That’s our job as coaches to really improve their skill level and how they learn about life.” There appears to be little doubt that Smith will be the man to share the burden with Lehmann, though his appointment will have to be formally approved after Clarke’s swansong at the Oval.

Lehmann has no concerns about how the responsibility will affect his batting, though Smith will look back with disappointment on every innings barring his double-century at Lord’s this summer.

“When you lose someone as great a player as Michael was and a leader, you’ve got to find the next man and that I would think, with board approval, would be Steve Smith,” said Lehmann.

“We’ll work closely with him as we have with Michael. I think he’ll grow and be a really good leader. He’ll be aggressive as all Australian captains have been, but I think he’ll work out what works for him on and off the field.”

Lehmann also offered a glowing tribute to Clarke, though admitting surprise at his decision to walk away.

“There was no chat beforehand at all.

“I was actually quite shocked at the decision he made, but he’s made that decision and we obviously support it,” he said.

“He’s been a great player. A few of the players were very shocked, and the staff.

“But I’ll make it perfectly clear he is going to captain and play in the fifth Test.”

Lehmann shot down suggestions that Australia may begin the regeneration process immediately, by calling in players such as Yorkshire’s Glenn Maxwell from outside the touring party.