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Langer is the perfect choice for Australia

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Justin_Langer_Australia_CricketAustralian cricketers have to move on. They took their first steps towards leaving the ball tampering incident behind by naming Justin Langer their new head coach.

Ever since Langer's predecessor, Darren Lehmann, announced in 2017 that he would not renew his contract, all eyes had been on Langer to take over. Langer's appointment was fast-tracked, due to the ball tampering incident that led to Lehmann’s early resignation. The weeks after the incident were tormenting for the Australians, who now have their global image at stake.

Langer has a huge task ahead of him. He needs to bring the team back to winning ways but also has to help them to restore their tarnished image.

On his first day as Australian coach, Langer was as nervous as when he first went onto the cricket field wearing the Baggy Green. When he made his Australia debut in 1993, he was not an instant hit. His contemporaries outdid him, but that did not demoralize him. He worked to better his mental and technical strengths. In his very second series, against New Zealand, he had a little conversation with Black Caps legend John Wright.

Observing the 23-year-old kid, Wright called him across the room to give him a piece of advice. Wright asked Langer, “Do you know anything about meditation?’ Langer replied, “Sorry mate, I have no clue what that means.” After scoring a pair of ducks in the Auckland Test, Langer was dropped from the side. Soon after that, Langer saw a newspaper advertisement about a meditation course. He figured that was an important sign and since then, Langer has mediated almost every day.

If there was a possible solution to a problem, Langer knew best how to hunt the solution down. There was no one better than Langer to aid an Australian team almost in ruin.

 

The 47-year-old is the best choice right for the job at the moment. He has pulled off a task much like this one not too long ago. "I will take character over cover drive every day," Langer's mantra is testament to the fact that Australia desperately needs him to give them a fresh start. He is the reason for Western Australia for not only surviving on the Australian domestic circuit but becoming a vital resource that develops cricketers for the national side.

 

Following Langer's retirement in 2009, he returned to the Australia team as an assistant national coach. He helped the team for two years before he was offered a tricky job by his home side, Western Australia (WA). The club offered him the role of the head coach, but the job was tricky because WA had by then become an isolated side in Australia's domestic circuit. It was Langer who turned WA around from being the most-hated side to what it is today.

"When I took over at WA, it was like a dysfunctional family. The ex-players hated the WACA, the WACA hated them back, club cricket hated them, WACA hated them back, media hated the WACA, the WACA hated them back – everyone was angry. I’ve got to bring a bit of love back!” Langer said.

Towards the end of 2012, WA lost its captain and head coach in a span of a week. The drinking culture was at its peak and was destroying the future of WA and its players. One victim was Shaun Marsh, who was wasting his talent. His brother, Mitchell Marsh was following in his older brother's footsteps. When Langer landed in Perth to accept WA's offer, apparently the first thing he did was visit Shaun. Langer has known Shaun since the older Marsh was a little boy and has always believed that Shaun can reach great heights with the bat. "If you don’t change, I’ll still love you, but I won’t pick you,” he said to Shaun in 2012 in his capacity as Western Australia Head Coach.

Apart from bringing the existing cricketers at WACA back on the track, he invited several club cricketers for a trial. One of them was Andrew Tye, who today is an Australian cricketer because of Langer. Tye had spent several years playing grade cricket in Perth and some leagues in England. By 2012, he was certain that he would never play for Australia. Luckily, he was offered the job of a curator at the WACA before Langer put him among the cricketers trying out for the Scorchers.

In the next four years, Tye's fate took a massive U-turn. Not only did he become a regular Perth Scorchers bowler, he became a key member in the Australian T20I side. He also became the only bowler to have picked three hat-tricks in a single year. Now he is slowly working towards establishing himself in the ODI team.

 

Langer does not just pick players, coach them and forget them. What sets him apart is the way he treats and values them. There is no more apt example than Cameron Bancroft. Bancroft grew up idolising Langer. He turned out to be a cricket nerd. He was intense and thought deeply about the game. According to Langer, the only two players who loved the game more than Mike Hussey were Bancroft and Steven Smith.

 

Under the management of Langer in WA, Bancroft made his Australia debut at 25 during the 2017-18 Ashes. A few months later that dream debut turned into a nightmare when he was caught ball tampering in the fourth Test against South Africa at the Wanderers. Apparently, it was Australia’s vice-captain David Warner’s call, with approval from Captain Steve Smith, to carry out the tampering process, which led to the duo’s ban for a year each and nine-month suspension for Bancroft. When the 25-year-old landed in Perth, Langer went to receive the devastated young lad at the airport and the Australian management reportedly apologized to Langer for whatever happened to Bancroft under their watch.

Langer has suggested that Australian dressing room has to undergo a revised culture and the sense of mateship amongst them. He will have to modify the behavior of the current team as well. The players are not supposed to be angry or over-aggressive, but the aggression should be taken out with bat and ball.

As an international cricketer, Langer gave his everything to do justice to his Baggy Green. And when he was made in charge outside the field, he has been as efficient. He not only revived WA as a team but also has made it as one of the best hubs in the country that produces promising cricketers.

With the combination of utmost discipline and uncompromising cricket, Langer has done wonders with WA and that is exactly expected of him with the national side as well.

Australia need to look for the positives from their enriched history, take pride, and move ahead. As Langer has said, there is no anger in the dressing room and they have to do just mend their mistakes and work towards earning their lost respect back. "To me respect is worth more than all the gold in the world. We must earn respect on and off the field” These are words of Langer. Now that Langer has smashed the ball outside the park with his words, it’s time for his actions now.

 

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