The Roar
The Roar

Advertisement

Opinion

Langer digs in for long haul, players silent – CA needs to make up its mind

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Replay
Cancel
Next
Expert
20th January, 2022
32
1200 Reads

Justin Langer was renowned as someone who was not fashionable but got results by digging in and proving hard to remove.

That was as a batter. As a coach it appears he’s no different.

Langer, quite rightly so, has stated he wants to continue as Australian coach and believes his record deserves a contract extension when it runs out in June.

The senior players, including captain Pat Cummins, have had several chances to endorse Langer’s reappointment and have been asked directly on the issue throughout the summer but, reading between the lines, it is clear they’re not that enthusiastic about the coach getting a new deal.

Cricket Australia will have to do something they seem reluctant to do – make a decision. And quickly.

If the board and CEO Nick Hockley believe Langer is the man for the job, what more evidence do they need? He’s a few months away from the end of his four-year term and surely nothing in the immediate future will change their opinion of his suitability for another contract offer.

With the Chappell-Hadlee series cancelled, there is only a handful of white-ball games at home against Sri Lanka in February and the tour of Pakistan in March – three Tests, three ODIs and a T20 game – remaining on the list for Langer’s tenure.

After leading the Australian men’s team to the Twenty20 World Cup in November and vanquishing England 4-0 in the Ashes series, the board members should need no more convincing about Langer’s credentials, a point the coach made during a couple of radio interviews on Wednesday.

“I can only be judged on where Australian cricket was when I took over, because that’s the obvious time, to where it is today,” he told Perth radio station 6PR. “Whatever happens, I’m really, really proud and so are my family and friends and so many people I know and I think a lot of Australians are to be honest about where the Australian cricket team is now.

“Before I left (in September for the T20 World Cup), the absolute commitment from Cricket Australia and myself was that at the end of this campaign … my contract runs out in June and we’ll discuss where everyone is at and come up with the best plan going forward.”

Advertisement

The recent success should also be weighed up against the previous three years that Langer has overseen. Australia lost a rare home Test series last summer against a depleted Indian side, they fell short of defending their ODI World Cup crown in 2019 and they did not qualify for the World Test Championship, albeit by a narrow margin after an over rate penalty cost them.

Langer has spoken about how it’s an “all-encompassing job” and his predecessor, Darren Lehmann, has advised him to walk away with his head held high. To jump before he’s pushed, basically.

There have been several other former teammates who have gone on the record to say Langer should be re-signed, including former captains Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrst and not surprisingly, his long-time opening partner Matthew Hayden.

Cummins, who said the decision on Langer’s future was above his pay grade, said earlier this week that the coach has “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.

“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.”

Advertisement

These are carefully chosen words. The players have been happier with Langer in the past few months after they approached CA executives about his intensity and micro management. He responded by delegating more to his assistants and being a more mellow presence around the team.

It has translated into a big tournament win in the UAE and a dominant Ashes result but it could be argued that a 4-0 victory should be par for the course over the under-prepared and underwhelming England side which stunk it up in the Ashes.

The decision to declare late on day four in the fourth Test in Sydney, co-signed by Langer and Cummins, cost them what should have been just the fourth 5-0 whitewash in Ashes history.

It would be even harder for CA to punt Langer if they had achieved a clean sweep.

But that’s the decision they will have to make – Langer is not going to fall on his sword and if the players had wanted him to be given a new deal, what’s been stopping them from declaring that viewpoint publicly?

The last time CA said anything on the matter was on New Year’s Eve when executive general manager of national teams and high performance Ben Oliver said Langer had “done a great job” a few days after the Ashes had been secured following the third Test in Melbourne.

“I think he’s really embraced the conversations that were had over the winter and he’s really evolved and leaned into that,” he said.

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)

Advertisement

When the Australian team last toured Pakistan in 1998, it is remembered for the 334 not out scored by Mark Taylor in Peshawar.

What is not so well remembered is another major moment in the career of one of his teammates – Langer had been recalled to the Australian team for the tour and after making a golden duck in the first Test, his future was on the line.

Coming in at first drop after Michael Slater had been dismissed by Shoaib Akhtar, he was hit on the pads by the Pakistani paceman and West Indies umpire Steve Bucknor, who famously took a long time to make any decision.

Langer tells the tale in his book, The Power of Passion, that “in an instant, my career passed in front of my eyes”.

“Two golden ducks in a row would have been pretty hard to fight back from. Slowly I looked up and stared into the eyes of the Jamaican. Staring back at me, he tilted his head to the right, and then to the left. He then took one last glare at my pads before looking me in the eyes and saying NOT OUT”.

Langer did what he always did thereafter – he dug in, attacked his challenge as if his life depended on it and scored his first century, 116, to establish himself after a few years.

The 10th Test of his career in Peshawar was followed by another 95 before he retired on his own terms after the 2006-07 Ashes.

Right now he’s facing a similarly anxious wait before CA gives its decision to see whether he will have the chance, after his first few years as coach, to extend his career.

Advertisement

Sports opinion delivered daily 

   

close