The specter of the Justin Langer saga is still hanging over the Australian men’s cricket team, with the impending release of a new documentary set to re-ignite discussion of how the former coach was treated.
In the upcoming second series of Amazon’s The Testbatter Usman Khawaja concedes that some players were scared of the former coach.
“There was plenty of guys who don’t speak up, who don’t talk, and were afraid of JL,” he said in the first episode.
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Skipper Pat Cummins said that some members of the squad were “walking on eggshells” around Langer, especially early on in his tenure, and expanded on those comments when he spoke to Wide World of Sports ahead of the show’s premiere.
“It was a tough time for Aussie cricket, I think we were all trying to find our ways,” Cummins said.
“New coach, a lot of players trying to consolidate their spot in the Aussie team and it was everyone trying to feel out how we were going to work together with the same common goal.”
Australia’s new Test captain said that the group had “settled” with time and that he hoped the footage shown would give fans some insight into the shifting dynamics of the team.
“It’s a bit different this time around, a few years’ on, everyone’s kind of a bit more settled,” he said.
“There can be a lot of conjecture, a lot of different stories that go in certain directions which might be really different to our lived experience as a group.
“Hopefully it’s captured accurately and shows a fair side. In a lot of ways, a lot of the emotion and heat happens outside, and it can be ramped right up outside which might be a bit different to what we’re feeling inside the group .”
Cummins’ fellow frontline quick Mitchell Starc said people could draw their own conclusions.
“As long as its portrayed accurately and how it’s been within the group, which I think has been fantastic, people will make their own minds up,” he said.
“The way the group’s been heading, whether it be outside noise or whatever the hurdle may be, inside the group’s been unbelievable and been a lot of fun for a long time, not just for the last six or seven months.”
One man who was full of praise for Langer was Marnus Labuschagne, who credits the 52-year-old with allowing him to flourish in the baggy green.
“I got along with JL really well – I had no personal issues. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for JL. I mean, who picks a bloke averaging 30 in Test cricket to bat at number three for Australia ?” he told Wide World of Sports.
“I’ve got a lot to thank him for, because he saw something in my character that he thought I could play at that level. I’m very thankful that I was able to prove him right, that he had that faith in myself.”
After moving to that first drop spot in the batting line-up, Labuschagne quickly became one of the best batters in world cricket – and he wasn’t about to discredit Langer, who was a large part of why that happened.
“Our job is to play cricket – our job’s not to be politicians in that space,” he said.
“At the end of the day, it was a professional decision from people way above our pay grade to say ‘look, we’re going to move away from this to that’ – it’s not my choice, it’s not my decision.”
Cricket Australia confirmed Andrew McDonald as the new coach in Aprilsparking a war of words between fans and ex-players.
“I was pretty chilled, to be honest,” Steve Smith said when asked about the ‘eggshells’ comment.
“I just get on with my business and do what I need to do.”
Smith declined to say whether or not the new regime was an improvement, but you can’t argue with results.
“Whilst I think JL and Andrew are both different people, both different style coaches, I won’t say one’s right or wrong or better or worse, you know what I mean? They’re just different,” he said.
“Obviously right now with the way we’re performing I think everything’s running really smoothly.”
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