Australian test cricket men’s coach Darren Lehmann has announced he will step down from the role following the fourth and final test in South Africa.
Cricket.com.au broke news of his shock departure late on Thursday night, as Cricket Australia struggles to deal with the fallout from side’s attempted cheating during the third test in Cape Town, as well as the loss of sponsors and ongoing reputational damage, with three players sent home in disgrace, including former captain Steve Smith and co-captain David Warner.
The former player, nicknamed “Boof”, made his decision after watching Smith and opener Cameron Bancroft – banned for 12 and nine months respectively for their roles in ball-tampering – deliver emotional apologies for their actions at media conferences upon their return to Australia.
Lehmann was cleared of any involvement in the scandal, reportedly saying “What the f— is going on?” as the drama unfolded without his knowledge.
“As I stated before I had no prior knowledge of the incident and do not condone what happened. But good people can make mistakes,” he said, adding that both he and his family had “copped a lot of abuse over the last week and it’s taken its toll”.
The coach said his departure was “the right thing for Australian cricket” ahead of a review into the culture of the team to let them make changes and regain public trust.
“I’m ultimately responsible for the culture of the team,” he said.
Cricket.com.au reports Lehmann said saying goodbye to the players “was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do”.
“After seeing events in the media today with Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft, the feeling is that Australian cricket needs to move forward and this is the right thing to do,” he said.
“I really felt for Steve, as I saw him crying in front of the media, and all the players are really hurting.”
He cited the response to the death of Phillip Hughes, aged 25, following a blow to the head from a bouncer during a match in Sydney in 2014, as his proudest achievement.
The widely respected coach took charge in 2013 as the team was viewed as dysfunctional, amid morale and discipline problems, with the previous coach sacked after four players were suspended.
He turned a 0-3 Ashes series loss into a 5-0 victory within six months.
BREAKING: Darren Lehmann announces this will be his last Test as he is stepping down from his role as head coach pic.twitter.com/VZEKbS6ZZc
— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) 29 March 2018
More to come.