JASON GILLESPIE has hailed the Darren Lehmann effect as he told how his friend and former team-mate had helped transform Australia from a side in turmoil into World Cup winners.
Australia were in chaos when former Yorkshire batsman Lehmann took over as coach from Mickey Arthur just 16 days before the 2013 Ashes.
The side had just lost 4-0 in India – where four players had been dropped for failing to complete a “homework” assignment – and the camp was beset by disciplinary problems.
Although Australia lost that 2013 Ashes, they thrashed England 5-0 in the return and have since soared under Lehmann, who led them to World Cup glory on Sunday when they beat fellow co-hosts New Zealand in Melbourne.
“Darren has done an incredible job,” said Gillespie, who revealed that he sent Lehmann a text after the World Cup win which simply stated: “Yep” – in other words, “Job done”.
“For reasons I’m not fully aware of, they were in disarray when he took over and, like all the punters, just seeing all the stuff that went off in India, it didn’t seem like a very nice environment to play cricket in.
“To see where Australia was then and, in such a short space of time, to see where they are now – not even two years down the track – is incredibly pleasing.
“Darren has to take enormous credit, along with the players who have really bought into his philosophy.”
Lehmann was Australia A coach when Arthur was dismissed and immediately stamped his style on the side.
He created a “work-hard, play-hard” environment and has backed his players to the hilt, which has enabled him to enforce discipline from a position of strength – namely, that he has those players’ interests at heart.
“When he first got the gig, I think his first meeting with the Australian lads was in the pub,” said Gillespie, who played with Lehmann at state and international level.
“He got them all together, bought them a round of beers and basically sat them down and had a chat to them, outlining some of his basics and non-negotiables and how he wanted the team to play and enjoy their cricket.
“Darren is a fun-loving guy who supports his players to the max, but you also know where you stand with him, which is why he commands such great respect.
“One of his big things, for instance, is don’t be late, and early on in his time as coach of Queensland, one of the lads turned up 30 seconds late and he just sent him home and said: ‘That’s the standard, boys. That’s one of my non-negotiables, don’t be late.’ That lad was never late again.”
In many ways, Lehmann and Gillespie are cut from the same cloth.
Much of Yorkshire’s success can be attributed to the fun-loving, dedicated and positive mentality that Gillespie brings, which is why he has been talked of as a future international coach himself.
“What Darren has done is kept things as simple as possible,” said Gillespie. “With him, it’s all about enjoyment, it’s all about families, it’s all about playing positive, aggressive cricket.
“One of his favourite phrases – and I use it quite often myself because I think it’s brilliant – is to say that your goal as a batsman is to hit the ball where there’s no fielder.
“I know that sounds ridiculously simple, but what that allows players to do is think for themselves.
“They’re then thinking, ‘My job is to score runs, so how can I do that?’ It’s a simple yet effective way of selling an idea.
“At the end of the day, you can look a million dollars and play with the straightest of bats, but if you’re hitting it to the fielders all the time then you’re not doing your job for the team, you’re not scoring runs. Darren gets that message across in a language that everyone can understand.”
Central to Lehmann’s success is his man-management skill.
“Darren is a great man-manager and a great people person,” said Gillespie. “He commands respect by how he treats people, by how he treats people as equals.
“He’s equally at ease talking to the Prime Minister or the bloke with a fag hanging out of his gob in the pub. He has that ability.”
Lehmann has created a family feel in the Australian set-up, something else that Gillespie champions at Yorkshire.
By treating players as humans – people with feelings and concerns away from the game – it helps foster improved performance, loyalty and commitment.
“Darren is massive on the whole family thing,” said Gillespie.
“Throughout the World Cup, he let the lads fly back to their home states when they had a couple of days off, for example, while also making sure there was specific team-time after each game –time when the lads had a beer together or went out for a meal.
“As part of my own coaching philosophy, I’ve got two words that I write: Family First.
“At the end of the day, it’s just a game of cricket.”