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'Let's cut through the crap': Cummins in spotlight for failure to throw considerable weight behind Langer

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18th January, 2022
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We are two days on from the end of an Ashes thrashing. England have slunk home amidst reports of a drinking culture and fat-shaming, and Australia have been celebrating with beers and victory songs at a Hobart pub.

But there is still a strange shadow hanging over the team in the intriguing shape of Justin Langer.

That the coach is in a seemingly precarious situation has surprised many cricket fans – including a fair number of The Roar readers who wonder if it’s all an invention of the media.

Andrew Wu, of the Sydney Morning Herald, was at it again on Tuesday, suggesting that nothing has changed in player perceptions of Langer, even in the wake of a 4-0 Ashes success.

“Justin Langer’s coaching fate is expected to be decided before Australia’s mooted Test tour of Pakistan, with key players unmoved on their stance on the coach despite the national men’s team’s recent success,” Wu wrote.

“Cricket Australia high-performance boss Ben Oliver will make a recommendation to the board in the next few weeks over the structure of the head coach role after assessing the team’s upcoming calendar.

“Ordinarily, a coach who has won the country’s first men’s Twenty20 World Cup and retained the urn in such convincing fashion would be walking into head office to name his price, but this is not the case with Langer.

“The Test great has been unable to win over his players, who let him know early last year of their issues with his intensity, mood swings and management style. It took a player mutiny requiring intervention from then CA chairman Earl Eddings and chief executive Nick Hockley for Langer to change.”

During the Hobart Test there was the odd scenario of Trevor Bayliss – a former player at Cummins’ grade club Penrith – being mooted as the man ready to replace Langer, a story that emerged from UK reporters.

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Head coach Justin Langer shakes hands with Pat Cummins of Australia after the match ended in a draw on day five of the Fourth Test Match in the Ashes series between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 09, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Former cricketers have raced to support Langer. Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting joined Shane Warne and Michael Vaughan on the final day of the Ashes series to argue strongly that Langer deserved to keep his job beyond the end of his contract mid year.

On Wednesday statements from current captain Pat Cummins were under the spotlight in a piece by Australian writer Gideon Haigh in The Times newspaper.

Haigh wrote of the “bizarro world where Joe Root, the England captain, keeps affirming his support for Chris Silverwood, whom everyone thinks should go, while Pat Cummins, Root’s Australia counterpart, has a capacity, probably unintentional, for still sounding a little ambivalent about Langer.”

Earlier in the Ashes, Cummins fobbed off Langer questions, and he was at it again after the Hobart Test.

“That’s above my pay grade,” Cummins said at his post-match press conference. “We’ll wait and see, it’d be nice to have clarity for everyone.

“He’s been doing a fantastic job, we absolutely love JL.

“He’s been really great through the World Cup and the Ashes. Honestly, it’s not been a talking point at all within the camp.

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“The plan has always been to chat about it after the Ashes, so the powers that be, I’m sure, will chat at some stage. But he’s been fantastic for us and the boys love having him around.”

Haigh argued that it was disingenuous of Cummins to present decisions concerning coaching appointments as “above my pay grade” and the prerogative of the “powers that be”.

The writer was clearly not feeling the professed “love”.

“The fact is that there’s nobody above his pay grade, and his voice is as powerful as anyone’s, if not more so,” he wrote.

“Let’s cut through the crap on this. If Cummins planted his weight solidly behind Langer, 51, it would be an obdurate Cricket Australia board that overrode him; if Cummins considered the time ripe for change, that argument would need to be heeded also.

“Cummins has not put a foot wrong this season — this is his first main challenge. He will be forced to take a position by which he will then be judged.”

Langer, Haigh argues, has “proven more flexible and thoughtful than detractors would have predicted, and the team have achieved success.

“Were he to lose the job now, he would appear to have been judged on who he had been, rather than what he has become.”

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Cummins, a tardy declaration aside, had the perfect start to his captaincy career. He will be emboldened and feel his voice will be carrying much weight in the coming weeks. There has been no sign of faltering or doubt in how he has embraced the job, and Cricket Australia is likely to continue to back their man.

And perhaps it’s unfair to expect much more from him in way of supportive words, although each sentence has has been perfectly measured.

It means a nervous wait once again for Langer, who admitted being affected by the talk before the T20 World Cup over his approach.

“Everyone was telling me what a bad person I was,” he said.

“At times, it felt like I was being treated like a criminal, and my only crime is trying to coach the Australian cricket team.

“Last winter was horrible for my family. You hit rock bottom, and you’re the criminal for whatever reason.”

It is hard to believe that the court of public opinion wouldn’t find overwhelmingly for Langer right now.

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Former Australian player Simon O’Donnell might as well have summed up the case for the defence on SEN on Monday.

“I just find it extraordinary that there’s a debate,” O’Donnell said.

“Is there a sport in the world where as coach you can go and win the ultimate prize in a format of the game – which is the T20 cricket World Cup – and then go on and win a five Test series 4-0 against the old foe in an Ashes series as coach, and still be questioned whether you should keep your job or not?

“I know we’ve just come off a 4-0 win in a series – but I think as important as players are and their opinion is, you still always need a decision maker and a really firm hand to give that guidance.

“Just every now and then a little ‘hurry-up’ needs to be dished out to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

“You need a coach and a strong administration to do that, and I just can’t even believe it’s being questioned.”

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