The treatment of Justin Langer has been a disgrace
Justin Langer, former coach of the Australian cricket team, resigned effective immediately after dismissing a short-term 6-month contract offer from Cricket Australia.
To say that he has been treated appallingly by all concerned is an understatement.
Langer was brought in to restore honour and dignity to an Australian team that had neither after behaving disgracefully in South Africa during the infamous Sandpapergate ball tampering incident.
Even his detractors would argue he has done a fine job on that score, forcing the Australian cricket team to start acting in a more civilised manner while also managing the difficult return of former captain Steve Smith and David Warner to the team once they had served their one-year suspensions for their parts in Sandpapergate.
Notably, Langer was previously the highly successful coach of the Perth Scorchers in the BBL, with the team winning three championships under his watch. To my knowledge, not one of the players he coached ever voiced concerns over his coaching style while at the Scorchers.
Player power triumphant
Yet ultimately Langer was forced to resign as Australian coach due to player power.
Various unnamed players within the Australian cricket team complained about dealing with him, and after this came to light he was instructed by Cricket Australia to change his ways. Apparently he was too demanding of his players, with the poor darlings obviously offended that they might be held to a high standard both in terms of their cricketing performance and their treatment of opposing teams and umpires.
To his credit, once concerns were raised, Langer made every effort to change, relinquishing his iron control over the team and moving more into the periphery.
From a purely win-loss point of view, a 4-0 Ashes victory over England and victory in the Twenty 20 World Cup would suggest Langer’s efforts to change have been successful.
Yet this wasn’t good enough for certain Australian players, with current Test Captain Pat Cummins and One Day Captain Aaron Finch both refusing to support Langer when asked by the media recently.
Things came to a head on Friday night after a marathon meeting by the Board of Cricket Australia, with Langer promptly resigning the next day.
The first question to ask is why do the players have any say in the matter? Aren’t they paid to bat or bowl and do their utmost representing their country, while Langer and the other coaches are paid to ensure the players are as well drilled and prepared as possible?
If Langer or any coach is demanding, then so what?
Following Rugby’s lead
The Australian cricket team seems to have gone the way of the Australian rugby team, which is notorious for player power pushing out coaches. Given the Wallabies haven’t won the Bledisloe Cup for 20 years, you would think Cricket Australia would be reluctant to follow rugby’s lead!
Evidently not, with Cricket Australia clearly taking the players’ side and only offering Langer a short-term contract despite the recent success of the team and despite Langer clearly making the requested changes to his coaching style.
As I said, he has been treated appallingly.
Needless to say, Langer’s former teammates and other former players actually have the guts to stand up for their fallen comrade.
Former opening partner Matthew Hayden noted:
The whole thing just reeks of being orchestrated from basically the moment all of this garbage started coming out in the middle of last year. You could see that the writing was on the wall.
Retired fast bowler Mitchell Johnson added:
I just feel like he has been forced into this. I don’t blame him. I think the mess that’s happened throughout this whole contract debacle has been disgusting and I feel like it has just gotten to him, and I think it is a bit of a token gesture by Cricket Australia.
So it seems former players who know Langer best support him, but current players – and the Board of Cricket Australia – don’t.
Blessing in disguise?
Perhaps this whole sorry saga is actually a blessing in disguise for Justin Langer. I don’t know how much more I would have taken had I been in Langer’s position, especially after doing my utmost to make the changes that were supposedly needed, only for it not to be enough.
As such, there was only one honourable way forward and that was to resign.
I think Langer has made the right decision, and I bet most Aussie cricket fans support him.