x

Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Australia appoints former opener Justin Langer as coach

The 47-year-old, appointed national coach on Thursday, is a striking contrast to his predecessor Darren Lehmann

Australia's Justin Langer kisses the Ashes trophy as he celebrates winning the cricket series against England. Former test opener Langer was confirmed as the new head coach of the Australian cricket team on Thursday. AP Photo/Rob Griffith
Australia's Justin Langer kisses the Ashes trophy as he celebrates winning the cricket series against England. Former test opener Langer was confirmed as the new head coach of the Australian cricket team on Thursday. AP Photo/Rob Griffith

As a player, Justin Langer was renowned for his utter commitment to the Australian cause – as a coach, he will bring similar zeal to the task of restoring pride in the scandal-tainted baggy green cap.

The 47-year-old, who was appointed national coach on Thursday, is a striking contrast to his laid-back predecessor Darren Lehmann, who resigned in the wake of the ball-tampering affair in South Africa.

Intense, disciplined and hard-working, Langer will not tolerate the boys-club mentality that Lehmann’s critics allege fostered a toxic culture in the Australian side.

“I am very excited about the scope I now have to coach the country that supported me so much in my cricketing career,” he said.

“There will be some significant challenges ahead for our group, but there is a wealth of talent in Australian cricket that I know will do us all proud.”

Langer played 105 Tests from 1993 to 2007, averaging 45.27 and amassing 7,696 runs, including 23 centuries.

He has previously worked as Australia’s batting coach and began a successful stint in charge of Western Australia in 2012.

Langer played in a golden era for Australian cricket, with greats such as Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath and Ricky Ponting in the all-conquering team.

But he was a late bloomer at the international level, struggling for selection until his career-defining opening partnership with Matthew Hayden began in 2001.

The pair became one of the most prolific opening combinations in history, seeing off the new ball in 113 Tests for a combined 5,655 runs at an average of 51.58.

Langer has acknowledged that his early struggles left him feeling insecure about his place in the team and the public still perceive him as a player who became great through dogged graft rather than dazzling natural ability.

Cricket writer Gideon Haigh said his vulnerability helped players relate to him when he was appointed Western Australia coach.

“There is a sense in which he is on a journey parallel to his players, rather than simply standing at the destination waiting for them,” Haigh wrote.

A West Australian newspaper described the state side as “a basket-case of ill-disciplined misfits” when Langer took over.

Batsman Mitchell Marsh said the new coach immediately stamped his authority on the dressing room.

“He was very big on us being good people, not just good cricketers,” he recalled.

“He sat me down and said you can either be on the train or you can jump off it.”

His disciplined approach soon had WA firing again, with success in domestic one-day and T20 competitions and appearances in two Sheffield Shield finals.

Off the field, Langer is a black belt martial artist with a strong Catholic faith who fundraises for half a dozen charities.

His loyalty to Australia is such that when South African paceman Makhaya Ntini felled him with a bouncer in 2006 he was willing to bat even though doctors warned him another blow to the head could be fatal.

As it turned out, he was not needed, but Langer said he could not have lived with himself if he had not padded up ready to take strike for his country.

He once revealed he slept in his baggy green cap after being presented with it on the eve of his Test debut against the West Indies in 1993.

He also took offence when former England captain Michael Atherton ridiculed the distinctive headgear in 2011, saying it represented a tradition that linked current players to icons such as Donald Bradman.

“Try telling every young kid in Australia that a baggy green isn’t something to aspire to,” he said.

“It’s like telling your own kids there’s no Santa Claus, monarchists that the crown jewels are a load of rubbish or a Christian that there is no God.”

Langer’s beloved baggy green has been tarnished by the cheating scandal that erupted when Australia used sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball in Cape Town.

Cricket Australia’s appointment has given him the chance to restore its status and it is a challenge Langer will no doubt grasp with both hands.