Australian cricket has been under the microscope over the last few months following the highly controversial tour of South Africa. The fallout following the suspensions of Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith and David Warner along with the resignation of head coach Darren Lehmann has left the nation in a state of shock as much as anything. However, the appointment of Justin Langer as the new head coach is certainly a positive step forward.
There have been many questions surrounding the attitude of Australia’s cricket team and hopefully they can put some of the extremely boorish behaviour behind them. Langer will be instrumental in this. As and integral part of one of Australia’s most successful Test sides his experience will be vital as he seeks to improve the worldwide perception of Australian cricket.
Following on from an incredibly successful few years with Western Australia and the Perth Scorchers his coaching record thus far suggests that he is managing to extract the best from those around him. Without those banned players until next year at least, Langer can start on assessing who are going to be the key members of his side moving forward. Renowned as a gutsy and determined cricketer he will need every effort from his players over the coming months.
Langer came through most of the Australian junior set up with Ricky Ponting and the two remain great friends. With Ponting now in charge of the T20 side it’ll be like old times and if they can translate even half of the success they had as players to their coaching careers then it’ll be an exciting watch. There remains plenty of potential within the Australian ranks and in Pat Cummins, Josh Hazelwood and Mitchell Starc they still have one of the best and fiercest bowling attacks around.
Whilst losing their two most important batsman will certainly have an impact, Langer is just the type of person you would want working with the likes of Usman Khawaja, the Marsh brothers and Matt Renshaw.
Following Cricket Australia’s decision to cancel the proposed Test series with Bangladesh in October for commercial reasons, Langer won’t be in charge of a red ball game until December when Australia host India for four Tests. Before then, in five weeks’ time, he will oversee a white ball tour of England where they will play each other five times in 11 days. Whilst England is probably not the preferred destination for some of those involved in the scandal in South Africa, it’ll be invaluable experience ahead of next summer’s World Cup.
As an England fan I will wholeheartedly say that of all the people Australia could have appointed Langer and Ponting would be the ones I’d be scared about most. They are old school guys whose values and dedication to the baggy green are the stuff of legend. They have been everywhere, won everything there is to win and will pass on the kind of knowledge and experience that is invaluable to young players starting out in international cricket.
There is of course the small matter of the Ashes in England next summer too, and having not won on English shores since 2001 it’ll be a huge motivational factor for Langer. First and foremost though it’s about steadying the ship and rebuilding the trust Australian cricket has lost in recent months. In appointing Langer Cricket Australia have finally got something right and with some time to formulate his own plans I am more nervous than I was a few weeks ago about the prospect of next summer.
By Andy Hunter