‘Ridiculous’: Lehmann slams Head’s axing and questions preparation

Darren Lehmann is baffled why Travis Head was dropped for the first Test in Nagpur and believes the Australians were hurt by inadequate preparation in a tug of war with the Big Bash.

The last coach to win a Test in India for almost two decades, during the 2017 tour, Lehmann believes Australia should have played a tour match on arrival and endorsed the two-week training camp the 2017 team had in Dubai.

Travis Head training in Nagpur before being left out of the first Test.Credit:Getty Images

“They need to find a way,” he said of Australia’s batsmen on spinning pitches as they head into the second Test at Delhi, beginning on Friday, after losing by an innings and 132 runs in Nagpur last week.

“They didn’t get selection right. Not playing Head was ridiculous, and he could have bowled some extra overs.

“The hardest thing for him now is how is he going to try and stay in the side after having such an amazing two years at home.

“If he’s ever going to succeed it was going to be off the back of the confidence the home series gave him. It’s a really tough one for him. Obviously they had their reasons but the records of the other blokes aren’t overly flattering either apart from [Steve] Smith, and [Marnus] Labuschagne is obviously a good player of spin.”

The batsman under most pressure to keep his spot is Matt Renshaw after a first-ball duck and two at Nagpur.

He is likely to be replaced by all-rounder Cameron Green should he prove his fitness following a broken finger.

Marnus Labuschagne top-scored for Australia in the first Test.Credit:Getty Images

Following Australia’s home series win against South Africa, most of the Test players joined the Big Bash, further boosting its post-COVID revival, which left the shortest lead-up to an Indian Test tour in history.

Australia spent a few days training at North Sydney Oval on a scarified pitch and then on spinning practice wickets in Bangalore before the first Test.

“Ideally, they should have played a tour game,” said Lehmann, now an assistant coach with the Brisbane Heat. “They don’t like to do that because the tour match we played last time (2017) was on a green wicket.

“But it’s still batting for a long period of times in the heat and getting used to the ball, things like that. So a tour game would have been handy ideally, but they decided to do the BBL didn’t they, which was good for the Heat because we got Marnus and Uzzie [Usman Khawaja], but maybe they needed a tour game. It’s easy in hindsight, though, isn’t it.”

Lehmann was delighted with the preparation a two-week training camp in Dubai gave his squad ahead of the 2017 tour. Australia won the first Test and had opportunities in the other three Tests before going down 2-1 in the series.

“It’s a fantastic spot to prepare,” Lehmann said of Dubai. “We were lucky enough to get there before going to India. We couldn’t have been any better prepared, and we came close [to winning the series].

Darren Lehmann, the last Australian coach to be part of a Test win in India.Credit:Getty Images

“Hopefully these guys can repeat that [2017 performance] and get back on track.”

“You’ve just got to bat big because 177 is never going to be enough. It was turning, so you’re trying to get to 250. If it was 250 it’s a different game.”

Australia had India 5-168 and 7-240 before the home side went on to make 400, aided by some sloppy fielding, with No.9 Axar Patel scoring 84 in more than four hours as part of a tail that wagged furiously.

Australia’s top scorer in the first innings was Labuschagne with 49 and in the second innings Steve Smith with an unbeaten 25 as Australia were bowled out for 91.

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