Chappell is a fantastic coach: Lehmann

Darren Lehmann

Darren Lehmann  

S. Dinakar

CHENNAI: Darren Lehmann's shaven head gleams under the afternoon sun. His blue eyes probably shine brighter. The effervescent Australian still bristles with life.

He is 35, has galloped into the sunset, but retains the buoyancy that transformed him into one of the most popular cricketers down under. His crackling laughter holds infectious charm.

The Aussie is also someone with an opinion. And the differences between Indian coach Greg Chappell and captain Sourav Ganguly have not escaped his attention. Lehmann favours India travelling on the path chosen by Chappell.

"Greg Chappell is a fantastic coach and is looking for India to win the next World Cup. That's what the side should be aiming for. Chappell was a great player himself and has vision as coach. There is no reason why he shouldn't be right in what he says," says the South Australian even as he follows action from the celebrity contest between the South Australian Premier's XI and the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister's XI at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium.

Ganguly, he believes, has to rediscover form with the willow to infuse more confidence into his captaincy. "The captain is your leader and he has got to make runs. If he doesn't do so, it is a bit of a worry."

The Aussie feels Team India will rise again if the selectors are on the cue. "India is a great bunch of talented players. If you pick the right side, it is going to be a strong unit in the 2007 World Cup."

He then shifts attention to the cricketing fortunes of his country. Australia's defeat in a titanic five-Test Ashes face-off has evoked shrill cries for a change at the helm. Lehmann thinks otherwise. "Ricky Ponting is the best captain we have around. You don't become a bad skipper just because you lose a series. Probably he could have done things better in England but you learn from such things."

Asked about the principal cause for the Aussie setback in the Old Blighty, he has a ready answer. "We didn't bat well enough in the first innings of any Test. That's where we lost the plot."

Not surprisingly, the quality of the English pace attack has grabbed his attention. "This is the finest I have seen from England in a very long time. If they get a world class spinner, the England bowling will be even better."

Still the best

Australia is still the best in the business, he emphasises. "England won a series against us after 16 years. If the Australians keep the desire, they will continue to dominate."

As a punishing left-handed batsman, Lehmann gathered 1798 Test runs (ave. 44.95) and 3078 ODI runs (ave. 38.96), often surprising the opposition with his unpredictable ways. His best moments coincide with those of the side. "Every time you win a Test, it is pretty memorable. I was lucky enough to be in the team that won two World Cups."

The upcoming Super Series in Australia gets him excited. "The best players in the world are showcasing their skills. It cannot get any better than this. It will be interesting to see how the Series works from the crowd's point of view."

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