Travel pain: Australian coach Darren Lehmann’s health scare has raised questions about his future as Australian coach. Photo: Ryan PierseWhen Darren Lehmann packed his bags and left Brisbane eight days ago, after the second match of the ODI series against India, he was all but saying goodbye to his adopted hometown until April.
Such is the globetrotting life for an Australian head coach: from a circuit of the country for the Indian limited-overs campaign, to New Zealand for one-dayers and Tests, to South Africa to warm up for the World Twenty20, and then of course the traversing of India for that tournament itself. And with only three days at home in between.
In the midst of that schedule, obviously, are a lot of flights, and quite a few long-haul ones.
It’s why Lehmann’s hospitalisation in Sydney at the weekend, suffering from deep vein thrombosis, raised more questions about how long he will continue to be in charge of the Australian team.
There was a positive sign from the coach on Sunday as he took to Facebook from Sydney’s Royal Prince Albert Hospital to offer a report on his well-being.
“Thanks so much to everyone for the well wishes, it is greatly appreciated by all the family,” Lehmann posted.
“Feeling better this morning, waiting for the results but good signs – looking forward to watching the T20’s this week and the BBL final tonight. Hope to see everyone soon and good luck to Michael Di Venuto as coach and the team for the week ahead. Will be a great series against a very good cricket team in India. Go Aussies!”.
Lehmann isn’t the first Australian coach to have such a scare. During the first Test of Australia’s famous tour of the West Indies in 1995 Bob Simpson suffered a blood clot in his left leg and was taken to hospital.
The 45-year-old has been treated for the issue once before – in 2007, the year he retired as a player. Presumably, he will be permitted to fly again soon by taking the kind of precautions that are commonplace when it comes to DVT, such as support stockings and medication.
With the Australians leaving for New Zealand next Monday, however, his availability for that tour remained under a cloud on Sunday.
If he can’t travel, a replacement from the National Cricket Centre staff such as Troy Cooley – who was interim head coach for a series in South Africa in 2011 – will be chosen to fill the gap in the coaching personnel.
Justin Langer, the Australian coach-in-waiting, won’t be elevated as he is mid-season with Western Australia.
As for Lehmann, whether this DVT flare-up is symptomatic of the demands of his travel-heavy job only the medicos can properly say.
But he has been candid about those challenges in the past year, leading many to conclude that the finish line may not be too far away.
He is on contract until mid-2017 but despite him hinting during the summer at continuing until the next World Cup and the next Ashes tour – both to be staged in 2019 – it would be a surprise if he hung around that long.
“If you have a young family it’s tough – they’re at school and all those sort of things.” Lehmann said last May.
“But it’s the best job in the world. You’d love to be able to do it for 20-30 years. I don’t think you can. I think players need change occasionally. I won’t be doing it forever, and hopefully I get to exit in my own way.”
For his employer, Cricket Australia, managing the workload and travel of their head coach has been an issue they’ve looked to address although if there has been a temptation to split the roles permanently – installing another coach to head up the limited-overs teams, for instance, while Lehmann takes the Test side – then it has been resisted.
Even so, in June this year Lehmann is scheduled to remain home while the Australian one-day side is in the Caribbean for a tri-series against the West Indies and South Africa.
In his stead, Langer will lead the touring party. Langer will eventually take the gig full-time, the only question appears to be when.
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