Inside the Australia cricket coup: How 'too intense' Langer was deposed

Daily Telegraph UK,
Publish Date
Mon, 7 Feb 2022, 4:10pm
Justin Langer says his attempts to instill honesty, respect, trust, truth, and performance into the Australian side were divisive. Photo / Getty
Justin Langer says his attempts to instill honesty, respect, trust, truth, and performance into the Australian side were divisive. Photo / Getty

Inside the Australia cricket coup: How 'too intense' Langer was deposed

Daily Telegraph UK,
Publish Date
Mon, 7 Feb 2022, 4:10pm

Matthew Hayden was close to tears when he discussed the departure of his old opening partner, Justin Langer, as Australia head coach. But he also had a warning too. 

"If he can turn Cricket Australia around in four years, imagine what he could do with the England Cricket Board. God help us," he said. 

The timing has been delicious. Cricket Australia's drawn-out negotiations with Langer have resulted in him leaving just hours after Sir Andrew Strauss admitted he would be a candidate to be the new England head coach were he to become available. 

It is no surprise it ended this way. Ricky Ponting described a "small group in the playing group and a couple of other staff around the team" who wanted Langer out. 

That much was clear on the night of January 10 in the outside seating area of a bar called the Den in Hobart's trendy Salamanca area. 

There sat the cream of Australia's playing and coaching staff discussing Langer and his future, like teams do when change is in the air. Pat Cummins, the Test captain, and David Warner were the players present. Andrew McDonald and Michael Di Venuto, the two coaches and Langer's assistants. Other support staff were there too. 

The topic? Langer and how they saw Trevor Bayliss, the former England head coach and known to those present from New South Wales days, as a calm figurehead who would take a back seat and allow the players the freedom to run team affairs without Langer's volatility. 

This was just three nights before the start of the fifth Test in Hobart and when Telegraph Sport reported that Bayliss was wanted by the leading players and coaches in the Australia team, Langer was furious, and hurt, that despite his recent success in changing his style, it had not been enough for some of those within his own dressing room. 

Cricket Australia's handling of Langer's exit has made the England & Wales Cricket Board look good over the past couple of days. The ECB may have stretched out the sackings of Ashley Giles, Chris SIlverwood and Graham Thorpe over three days but it was at least done with dignity and respect towards men who had given everything in an attempt to be successful. 

Langer has been treated shabbily for someone whose commitment to the cause was total and perhaps the handling of his exit by Cricket Australia will push him into the arms of a grateful ECB. 

Ponting was furious about it all - the offer of a six-month contract designed to make a proud man resign instead. "Here's the plank would you like to go for a stroll?' was how Robert Craddock, the Brisbane Courier Mail's long-standing correspondent put it. 

Player power has been laid bare. Most coaches lose their jobs through poor results; Langer won almost every match of the Australia summer having picked up the pieces after the sandpaper scandal. But Langer 'lost' the dressing room, stuffed full of many of the same players in Cape Town that infamous day, and no amount of crisis talks or change on his behalf was ever going to repair that problem. 

"It seems like a very strange time for a coach to be departing. Reading the tea leaves it sounds like a few - and as he says to me a small group in the playing group and a couple of other staff around the team - haven't entirely loved the way he has gone about it," said Ponting. 

"That's been enough to force out a man that has put his life and heart and soul into Australian cricket and done a sensational job of turning around the culture and the way the Australian cricket team has been looked at over the past three or four years. I actually think it's a really sad day as far as Australian cricket is concerned." 

It would be a fascinating scenario were Langer to coach England against Australia in next summer's Ashes. Set to one side for a moment his treatment by Cricket Australia. Just the very idea of a man who draped himself in the green and gold and entitled two of his books Australia You Little Beauty and Cricket the Aussie Way helping the Poms win back the Ashes is a fascinating narrative all of its own let alone the cricket on the field. 

It would have been inconceivable only a few weeks ago but Langer is starting a new phase in his career and at 51 he is now a professional coach for hire, his time with Australia over for good. The England job is highly paid, in fact the budget this time will be almost limitless given the desperate state of the Test team. 

The timing of his exit means that IPL jobs are filled already and would the soulless world of franchise circuit give him fulfilment away from the scrutiny and challenge of Test cricket anyway? 

Langer kept a low profile in the recent Ashes and when asked was respectful of his English opponents. Joe Root and Ben Stokes are cricketers any coach would want to work with. For struggling young batsmen Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope they would find a coach who had his own travails on his way to reaching the top and forming one of the great Test opening partnerships with Hayden. 

Ollie Robinson, and any of those failing to grasp the standards expected of a Test cricketer, would soon find out Langer's thoughts. 

There is a long process to go through. Strauss is a very methodical operator as well. He will not be rushed into anything and says he wants to find a director of cricket first and define the coaching structure before replacing Silverwood. But Cricket Australia have just made the process a bit livelier. 

Langer apologises for coaching with integrity 

The resignation letter Langer sent to Cricket Australia was revealed on Sunday by media site The Australian. In it, he apologised "if" he "came across as too intense at times". 

"Last night I was offered a short-term contract until the end of the T20 World Cup in Australia, with the sentiment of 'going out on a high'. After careful consideration I have decided not to accept this contract renewal, and as a result I believe it is in everyone's best interests for the Australian cricket team to begin the next chapter immediately," Langer said via email. 

"If media reports are correct, several senior players and a couple of support staff don't support me moving forward, and it is now apparent the CA board, and you Nick, are also keen to see the team move in another direction. I respect that decision. 

"My life has been built on values of honesty, respect, trust, truth, and performance and if that comes across as 'too intense' at times, I apologise," he wrote. 

"Whilst it is not up to me to judge, I hope Australian's respect what has been achieved over the last four years in Australian cricket. From day one I believed it was possible to both win and play the game in the spirit that is now expected from our supporters. 

"For the last four years it has been proven this can be achieved and I am very proud of the team for their efforts on and off the cricket field. I hope we have made Australians proud and earned respect from countries around the world." 

- with NZME