Justin Langer’s emotional intensity a strength and a weakness in cricket’s new world order
Justin Langer’s emotional intensity a strength and a weakness in cricket’s new world order

Langer’s hard edge needs soft touch in cricket’s modern age

Justin Langer's greatest challenge is that he was raised in a hard system and now coaches in a softer one.

It's no-one's fault. It's just the world. But this simple line does much to explain occasional tension between Australia's emotional, highly strung coach and his players as far back as the 2019 Ashes tour and more recently in the shock series loss to India.

Had this been the early 1990s when Langer was starting his playing career someone might have called for the players to "take a cement pill.''

But those days are gone.

 

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Australia's longest serving senior sports coach, rugby league's Wayne Bennett, said recently the biggest single change in his four decades with the clipboard was that when he started you could tell a player his defence was rubbish and you would never have to worry about the consequences.

Try the same words today and you - or your chief executive - were likely to have a player manager, or the player's mum, on the phone, Bennett reckoned.

Player power has changed, particularly in cricket, a sport which, like the wider world, has become more sensitive.

Money has brought independence and power.

Former Australian high performance boss Pat Howard was in the job less than six months when he said "things have changed … we don't own them any more.''

 

 

 

 

Allan Border's last contract with Cricket Australia in 1994 was $90,000.

For all of his fame, Border needed the Australian system as much as it needed him. There was nowhere else to go.

These days some players earn more in two months in the Indian Premier League than they do playing for Australia in the other 10.

Any national cricket coach who wants to go the long journey now has to get in tight with the senior players and gently shape their destiny rather than being dictatorial about it.

Hard-nosed Bob Simpson, Australia's first and arguably finest coach, was renowned for his "my way or the highway'' mantra.

But, as good as he was, Simpson would never have lasted today without significantly mellowing his ways.

 

Justin Langer in his player days with Australian opening partner Matthew Hayden. Picture: Matthias Engesser/AAP
Justin Langer in his player days with Australian opening partner Matthew Hayden. Picture: Matthias Engesser/AAP

 

 

 

Langer's famously intense demeanour appears to have aggravated some members of the dressing room and his task going forward is challenging,

Proudly and almost defiantly, he is a man of passion who will not want to change who he is.

And it must be remembered he was hired in the midst of a cultural crisis.

Langer was given an open mandate to lift the tone of Australian cricket so he doesn't have to be too apologetic about occasionally ruffling feathers.

But without dressing room support he would have nothing so he cannot be too defiant or gung ho about the road forward.

Langer is a huge fan of Manchester United coaching guru Sir Alex Ferguson who may have set the example for Langer to follow.

Ferguson remained firm about what he believed in during his marathon journey but changed his ways to cope with a hard-drinking club culture when he first arrived to managing fashion icons like David Beckham through entirely different challenges.

It can be done.

Originally published as Langer's hard edge needs soft touch in cricket's modern age



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