September, 2019

Australia v Sri Lanka: Sub-continent to shape Darren Lehmann’s coaching legacy

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GALLE: Darren Lehmann doesn’t believe his tenure will be defined by how Australia performs on the sub-continent – but that’s a debatable point.

Skipper Steve Smith has spoken about his determination to win on the sub-continent and Lehmann is central to that – all the way through until October 2019 when a World Cup and Ashes road trip culminate in what will have been his six-year coaching run.

Already, Lehmann has helped secure a home Ashes whitewash and the World Cup last year. Some would understandably define those two events as the pinnacle, but such have the world champions’ troubles been on the turning decks of Sri Lanka and, particularly, in India, that this part of the world will define the Lehmann legacy.

The resources and attention to detail Cricket Australia has put into improving results on the sub-continent highlights the importance of this task. There are Australia A tours, specialist training sessions (four players were sent to India for a week before this Sri Lanka series) and extended warm-up campaigns.

“What else can we do really?” selection chairman Rod Marsh pondered this week.

That so many Australian players now feature in the Indian Premier League also adds to the frustration of why they do not have better results in Tests on the sub-continent. It certainly shows why the long-form format remains the pinnacle of the game.

Lehmann was a fabulous player of spin, one of the best of his blue-chip generation, in his 27 Tests, as shown in his series high of 375 runs at 62.5 on the winning 2004 tour of Sri Lanka. His challenge is to pass on why he was so successful, and there is no better place to start than in Galle on Thursday when the tourists chase history – they have never come from behind to win on the sub-continent.

Admittedly, the challenge of winning in England also looms as a major one. Some would argue the greatest. Australia have not won there since 2001. But the defeats since haven’t been as one-sided there, on the whole, as they have been in India. Australia’s dominance from 1989 to 2001 in England also eases the recent frustration.

When it comes to India, Australia’s two most recent Test series wins were in 2004 under stand-in skipper Adam Gilchrist and in 1969-70 under Bill Lawry. They have not won an individual Test since that 2004 campaign, having been subsequently beaten 2-0, 2-0 and 4-0. That’s why for many cricket purists, victory in India – for the time being at least – remains the pinnacle. It would certainly put an end to questions whether Australia, when ranked No.1, as is the case now, are truly the best side.

A comeback victory on the sub-continent, as early as in this series against the sport’s seventh-ranked nation, would also give Smith’s team a fear factor it lacks. Mental dominance can be just as powerful as a physical one – the former something Australia had enjoyed over South Africa through the 1990s and early 2000s.

Lehmann says it’s important to win anywhere, and that is true, for big series wins typically come as a result of taking care of business against the lesser-ranked nations.

“I think you’re judged on results most of the time all around the world not just on the sub-continent. I think you’ve got to play well and win a lot of games of cricket basically as a coach,” he said.

“That’s what players have to do, that’s what coaches have to do in any sport. You’ve got to, hopefully, keep getting the results that makes it a lot easier.”

As Australia can attest to, there’s nothing easy about winning on the sub-continent. And the task of a breakthrough series win in India in February – one which would begin to shape Lehmann’s legacy – won’t be made any easier should there be failure here in a series many had tipped the tourists to win.

ACT Brumbies assistant Dan McKellar hit with fine for heated referee confrontation

Dan McKellar was fined $10,000 by SANZAAR, with $5000 suspended. Photo: Melissa AdamsThe ACT Brumbies’ shattering exit from the Super Rugby title race took another twist on Tuesday when assistant coach Dan McKellar was slapped with a $10,000 fine for misconduct after a controversial end to their quarter-final loss.
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McKellar has apologised to referee Angus Gardner after using crude or insulting language to the match official after a tense end to the loss to the Otago Highlanders last month.

Gardner raised the ire of everyone at Brumbyland when he denied winger Lausii Taliauli a potential match-winning try with five minutes left in the 15-9 defeat, and then refused to penalise the Highlanders’ scrum in the final seconds.

Super Rugby’s governing body, SANZAAR, did not want to comment on Gardner’s performance in the Brumbies-Highlanders match.

But McKellar’s fiery outburst after full-time has cost him dearly, with SANZAAR handing down a fine, with $5000 of the total suspended for the next 12 months.

Judicial officer Terry Willis has gagged the Brumbies from commenting on the situation, with SANZAAR boss Andy Marinos the only person allowed to speak about the issue.

Willis said McKellar had “unreservedly apologised” to Gardner since, and agreed such behaviour had no place in the game.

McKellar was found to be in breach of code of conduct sections 8.3 (k) and 8.3 (l), which states: “All persons shall not use crude, insulting or abusive language towards match officials.”

Meanwhile, the Brumbies are still waiting for a decision on coach Stephen Larkham’s immediate future, as he weighs up an option to join the Wallabies as a full-time assistant.

Larkham’s contract will expire at the end of the year and the timing of his decision will likely mean he remains with the Brumbies for at least the 2017 Super Rugby season.

However, one option is to lead the Brumbies through a transition period next year before joining the Wallabies in a permanent role in the seasons leading to the 2019 World Cup.

That would give the Brumbies time to plan for his potential departure, but the club is keen to keep Larkham for the next three seasons.

Larkham has juggled his dual role for the past two seasons, but it has limited the World Cup-winning former fly-half to less than a month of holidays since the start of last year.

He is negotiating with the Brumbies and the ARU to find the right balance and wants to play a role with both teams.

It is expected he will make his final decision within the next two weeks, to allow both camps to plan for the future.

The Brumbies are also searching for a new permanent chief executive, with the job to be advertised in the coming weeks.

Australia v Sri Lanka: Jon Holland’s career takes sudden turn for the better

GALLE: Australian spinner Jon Holland had thought his Test career had passed him by but believes he is ready to handle the pressure in the second Test against Sri Lanka.
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As Holland prepares for his debut, Sri Lanka was dealt a blow when fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep strained a hamstring at training and was sent to Colombo for scans. He could be the fourth local quick unavailable for selection because of injury.

Pradeep claimed two wickets in Australia’s first innings in Kandy, including opener David Warner.

Steve O’Keefe’s hamstring strain during the Kandy opener meant the tourists had to quickly find a replacement. That came almost too quick for Holland, who, having received a call from selection chairman Rod Marsh, remembered he still had not renewed his passport.

“I knew the week before. I tried to verify a betting account. I needed my passport and I saw it was expired,” Holland said.

Holland, 29, was able to fast-track a new passport, something which could also be said of his cricketing status this year. He has gone from back-up spinner to Fawad Ahmed in the Victorian team, to a hero of the Sheffield Shield final, to selection for Australia A when Ashton Agar was hurt, and now almost certainly the Test side on Thursday.

He toured India with Australia’s one-day international side in 2009 but did not play.

“I guess it was in the back of my mind that time was getting away from me but I really enjoy playing cricket for Victoria,” he said.

“They’ve stuck with me through three shoulder injuries and supported me and given me the chance to play cricket. I have to thank them. It’s all a bit surreal still and I will just have to wait and see if I do get the chance to play.”

The Galle deck almost certainly will take sharp turn, possibly from day one, as the hosts look to left-arm spinner Rangana Herath to retain his hold on the Australian batsmen.

Workers continue to get the ground on the southwest coast, with the 16th century fortress overlooking it, ready, in much the same manner as Holland is in terms of preparing himself for what awaits. He watched parts of the first Test in Brisbane while preparing for an Australia A series and has never played in Galle.

“I’ve been over here [Sri Lanka] a couple of times, I’ve been to India a couple of times, so I have been exposed to these conditions, but it’s been a while since I have been here so I will have to get a bit of a feel for it at training,” he said.

“We were here for the under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka – it’s a few years ago now. We came over here with a Victorian emerging players team and India as well and with the academy. I’ve been to India a few times.”

That may be the case but nothing will compare to the magnitude of being Australia’s 444th Test representative in a match the tourists must at least draw to have a chance of retaining the Warne-Muralidaran trophy.

The challenge before the tourists is great – they have never trailed in a series on the sub-continent and rebounded to win. Only three times in almost 140 years of Test cricket has Australia managed to do so on the road – all in Ashes campaigns.

“Obviously, I will be a little bit nervous if I do get a chance to play. I have worked hard on my bowling the last couple of years, I am pretty comfortable with where my bowling’s at,” Holland said.

“Hopefully, if I do get a chance, I can get myself into the game and get a couple of results.”

Holland has subtle changes of pace and can turn the ball appreciably, helping him to 106 wickets at 37.9 in 38 first-class matches. But what looms as pivotal in this series is the need to attack the pads and stumps, something Herath did so well last week.

“He knows the conditions extremely well here. He just bowls on the spot and knows how to subtly change his spin and variations and pace,” Holland said.

“I think just about every time he bowls the ball it’s hitting the stumps which is a big positive. I try to take a bit of that on board and try to do the same as that.”

Finding a quick way through the defence of Kusal Mendis, the match-winner in Kandy, will also be crucial for the tourists.

“You’ve just got to go out there and take the game on and be positive,” Holland said.

Wallabies take on Sydney Roosters in opposed training session before Rugby Championship

Mixing it up: The Wallabies ran an opposed session against the Sydney Roosters in preparation for their upcoming Rugby Championship fixtures. Photo: rugby南京桑拿南京夜生活 Mixing it up: Sean McMahon of the Wallabies tackles Rooster Boyd Cordner. Photo: rugby南京桑拿南京夜生活
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Friends: Roosters coach Trent Robinson and Wallabies mentor Michael Cheika. Photo: rugby南京桑拿南京夜生活

Israel Folau versus Blake Ferguson. Bernard Foley taking on Mitchell Pearce. Michael Hooper doing battle with Aidan Guerra.

It might sound like a cross-code match-up made in heaven but it became a reality on Tuesday as the Wallabies ran an opposed session against the Sydney Roosters in preparation for their upcoming Rugby Championship fixtures.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and Roosters boss Trent Robinson are close mates and were the brains behind the session at Sydney Grammar School in Rushcutters Bay where the Wallabies are in camp.

According to onlookers, the rugby and league stars didn’t hold back in a session with a little twist.

When the Wallabies attacked the Roosters defended from 10 metres back – like they do every weekend – while Trent Robinson’s men had to try to make line breaks with Cheika’s troops standing next to the play of the ball.

The session went for about 90 minutes in total, with 30 minutes of it allocated to full contact and the other time for teams to split up and do their own drills.

For years footy fans have debated who would win a game between league and rugby players, however from the unofficial session it would appear both sides were relatively evenly matched.

“Training up against the Chookies, it was good fun,” Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps told rugby南京桑拿南京夜生活. “They were good. It was different for them, not having that 10-metre line against them and it was different for us the way they defended. Obviously something different that we haven’t done before but it was great training against some of those great players. Such a prestigious club, a lot of history there and their players are obviously at the peak of their game and getting to share a few ideas and going against each other in training against teams that haven’t seen how they play too much is something that’s been pretty good.”

Phipps’ deputy in Nick Frisby, who was keeping a close eye on tri-colours No.9 Jake Friend at dummy half, is a “massive” Broncos fan but said it was a huge thrill to train against the Roosters in a session he learnt a lot from.

“I just tried to stay away from the big boys,” Frisby said. “I think there was a good respect for both games there today and we ran a bit of a hybrid game, attacking in union and defending in league and vice versa. It was interesting to see how the different skills transfer across the different games.”

The Wallabies will remain in Sydney for training this week before heading to Terrigal for another week-long camp.

They will then return to Sydney to prepare for the first Bledisloe Cup game against the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on August 20.

Nestled with mother, vets and keepers, ‘little fighter’ Willow loses her battle

Willow lost her six-week battle on Tuesday. Melbourne Zoo’s head vet Dr Michael Lynch shows Willow’s problem. Photo: Paul Jeffers
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Elephant keepers had been waiting for Num-Oi to give birth for a while. Photo: Justin McManus

Melbourne Zoo released this ultrasound picture when it announced that Num-Oi was pregnant in November 2014. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Willow’s mother Num-Oi, seen here with another of the zoo’s baby elephants, Mali. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Willow’s mother Num-Oi was obviously very sad, zoo keepers said. Photo: Justin McManus

Melbourne Zoo’s elephant calf Willow had endured a lot of pain and had gained a reputation as a fighter in her short life, but it was only on Monday that her keepers realised the “sweet, adorable little thing” was not going to make it.

The six-week-old calf had been battling a blood-borne infection for a fortnight and was showing signs of improvement, but over the weekend her condition worsened.

The zoo’s head vet, Michael Lynch, said he could tell the animal had been in pain.

Her knees had swollen up – an ominous sign the staphylococcus infection had penetrated the bones in her legs – and on Monday night she was taken to the University of Melbourne’s Werribee vet clinic for a CT scan, which confirmed her vets’ worst fears.

“The damage to one joint of her hind leg was so severe she could not have had a normal life afterwards, even if we had been able to get the infection under control,” Dr Lynch said.

“We decided not to persevere.”

It was at that point that he made the difficult decision to withdraw the medical treatment a team of vets, nurses and specialists had been providing for Willow around the clock for almost seven weeks.

From the hospital, the head of the elephant enclosure, Dominic Moss, called all 18 of her vets, keepers and nurses to tell them the bad news.

All 18 gave up their Monday night and returned to the zoo to say goodbye.

The calf was gently ushered into the elephant barn and reunited with her mother Num-Oi for the last time.

While the calf was nestled beside its mother, the specialists unhooked the two intravenous drips that had been providing Willow with nutrients for most of its life.

Then they administered the injection that would put the 108 kilogram animal to sleep.

“Num-Oi stood over Willow and on two occasions slept alongside the calf,” Mr Moss said.

“She was very calm – she was aware of what had happened. You could see she was sad and she has distanced herself from the rest of the herd today.”

It is the second time Num-Oi, an Asian elephant, has mourned a dead calf.

Willow’s brother, Sanook, died in an accident in 2013 at the age of 11 months while playing with a hanging tyre in the barn one evening.

Willow was born on June 15 with congenital carpal flexure, a condition that meant she could not stand up or suckle her mother, and was in a critical condition for her entire life.

Because of her difficulties with feeding, she struggled to get the nutrients she needed, and she was given milk formula and hooked up to a drip that provided her with protein and vital sugars.

She was cared for around the clock by a team of 18 that included an equine surgery and medicine specialist, an equine physiotherapist, a corrective farrier, a veterinary ophthalmologist, a cardiologist and a pathologist.

Corrective surgery allowed the calf to stand for brief periods, but shortly after she made it to the one-month mark she suffered a major setback.

“Just when we were getting on top of that she got the infection,” Dr Lynch said.

He said Willow had been gaining weight before the infection struck.

When asked why the zoo had persisted with the round-the-clock care, Dr Lynch said he felt they had to if there was a chance to help the “critical endangered” species of elephant.

“While we felt there was a chance, we put the resources in and the zoo made that commitment,” he said.

“This animal was 22 months in the making in gestation. And before that there was a whole lot of planning.

“There are not many of these animals in captivity so she was a valuable animal.

“But she was also a sweet little animal and we wanted to do the best for her.”

Willow with Melbourne Zoo veterinary nurse Jenny Kingston.

He recalled Willow’s playful nature, and the way the calf would try to grab its bottle back whenever it was taken away.

Mr Moss said the elephant was “a little fighter”.

“She had a strong will to live, but circumstances beyond her control meant she couldn’t make it,” he said.

“She was a feisty one to the very end. The mind was there but the body wasn’t able”

Zoo director Kevin Tanner thanked the “absolutely devastated” staff for their efforts and said they would also have access to grief counsellors.

He also thanked the community for its outpouring of support for Willow.

The calf’s body has been taken to the Werribee vet school, where Mr Tanner said it would be disposed of.

Animal rights campaigners say that Willow’s tragic early death supported their contention that zoos should neither keep nor try to breed elephants.

PETA Australia’s campaign coordinator Claire Fryer said that attempting to breed the pachyderms in captivity often ends in tragedy and called on Melbourne Zoo to close their elephant exhibit.

“Given the lack of stimulation and exercise and the inbreeding inherent at zoos, the infant-mortality rate for elephants is almost triple the rate in the wild,” Ms Fryer said in a statement.

Despite this, she added, “Melbourne Zoo continues to breed these intelligent animals in an effort to churn out more cash cows

“Zoos around the world have closed their elephant exhibits or announced plans to phase them out, citing their own inability to meet the significant needs of these animals.

“It’s time for Melbourne Zoo to do the same.”

Mr Tanner said the Zoo would continue with its breeding program.

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