Saker to stand-in for Lehmann during India ODIs
Australia's assistant coach David Saker will stand in for Darren Lehmann on the ODI tour of India that takes place later this year, but admits the fact that he has not played international cricket will count against him in calculations to replace Lehmann after the head coach's contract expires in 2019.
Lehmann has previously indicated that the conclusion of his current deal, following the double of the World Cup and an Ashes tour both in England, is highly likely to be the end of his tenure as coach of the national team. Saker returned to Australia from England and coached Victoria to the Sheffield Shield in his first season before being named as Lehmann's assistant last year.
While not shying away from saying that he would be more than capable of being Australia's head coach, Saker conceded that a first-class career as a swing bowler for Victoria that did not feature any international cricket would likely count against him in Cricket Australia's calculations.
The Western Australia coach Justin Langer and the Adelaide Strikers coach Jason Gillespie - both of whom stood in to mentor the Australian Twenty20 team last month alongside Ricky Ponting - are commonly considered the most likely successors to Lehmann.
"It's a huge honour to be even considered to be a coach of an Australian team and to be given the opportunity is fantastic. I'm going to look forward to it a lot," Saker said. "My ambition is to coach Australia but I know not playing cricket for Australia makes it a little bit harder. But I think I've been involved in Test cricket, one day cricket and Twenty20 cricket a lot. I've seen a lot of cricket so I think I could do the job without a doubt."
Saker's frank assessment of international cricket being a factor in his chances is not mere opinion. Lehmann and by extension CA have emphasised the importance of international playing experience in the coaching staff over the past four years, to the point that playing the game at the top level as a player is believed to be a factor in areas such as coach's contract length and level of remuneration.
The decision to use a stand-in coach for the India ODI tour is a mirror of Australia's plans in 2013, when Lehmann remained at home ahead of the home Ashes series alongside several members of the Test team including David Warner, Michael Clarke and Steven Smith. The touring team were instead led by George Bailey as captain and Steve Rixon as coach, and gave a good account of themselves until an in-form Mitchell Johnson was sent home ahead of the series deciding final game.
India went on to win the last match to take a high-scoring series, but the result was to be little remembered in the aftermath of Australia's subsequent 5-0 sweep of England on home shores. Saker was then a part of England's support staff - he will be hoping this time to aid the hosts in regaining the urn, both by his guidance in India and in the Ashes Tests that follow.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig