“I love the blokes – the players and all the staff I worked with… and when you leave, it’s sad.” – Lehmann © Getty
Former Australian coach Darren Lehmann has opened up on his triple bypass surgery, on his 50th birthday, and revealed his one-time fears of not being alive to see his 51st birthday.
The former Australian captain spoke on the life-changing experience as well as his coaching career – which saw him resurrect an Australian team from the lows of the ‘Homework gate scandal’, during the 4-0 thrashing by India in 2013, the tragic death of Phillip Hughes, the World Cup glory in 2015 and the heartbreaking episode of the Newlands ball-tampering saga.
The former Australian captain was staying at the Sea World resort in Gold Coast when he felt something amiss during the early hours of February 4. “I was having cold sweats, and it felt like someone was pushing down on top of my chest,” Lehmann was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au. “So we rang the medical officer of where I was staying and they got the ambulance straight there,” he added.
Lehmann underwent heart surgery on his 50th birthday in February, 2020, after an angiogram confirmed three blockages in blood vessels in the heart. Lehmann, who was holidaying with his elder son Jake, in Gold Coast, was first treated at the Gold Coast Private hospital before being transported to Brisbane’s Prince Charles Hospital, where the surgery was successfully done by Dr Peter Tresar.
Lehmann noted the time spent at the hospital in Gold Coast and then at the facility in Brisbane were truly life-changing. “Not knowing what was wrong… it’s always the not knowing (that’s hardest); once you know, it’s okay – you start to get some answers, start to get some confidence from the surgeons and the nurses.”
Lehmann led the Australian renaissance since the lows of the India tour and then the Ashes in 2013 – winning back the urn from the arch-rivals at home with a fabulous 5-0 whitewash, then beating South Africa away to claim the number one Test ranking, rejuvenating the team after the sad demise of Hughes, the 2015 World Cup triumph and then the Cape Town humiliation in 2017. He was cleared of any wrongdoing by Cricket Australia (CA) following the incident, but his Australian coaching stint ended on a sour note.
“I love the blokes – the players and all the staff I worked with… and when you leave, it’s sad,” Lehmann said, not willing to dwell too much on the sandpaper gate. “Life goes on, but you remember the great times, the great people. Hopefully, I played my small part in those cricketers becoming better people. I still talk to them now, make sure they’re OK, their families… that’s the main thing.”
Two months since the surgery, Lehmann is busy getting his way back to full health. The scars from the surgery are still visible – three of them, on the inside of each forearm and down his chest, but there are signs of the man jovially called ‘Boof the larrikin’, getting back to normal routine. This he says is due to the constant support provided by his wife Andrea, elder son Jake, and two young twin siblings, Amy and Ethan.
“I’m feeling better now, but still quite sore in the chest at times,” the 50-year old said. “You hope everything’s healing, and you have good days and really bad days, and you pick and choose how you deal with them. You speak through it with different people, and my family is always there.”
Having fought a bigger battle off the field, Lehmann is now hoping to come good once again at something he really loves – cricket. If and when cricket resumes post Covid-19, the former Australian coach will be back in action with the Leeds-based Northern Superchargers, the franchise he will coach in ‘The Hundred’. He will also resume his coaching duties with the Brisbane Heat in Australia’s Big Bash league.