SYDNEY (AFP): Australian men’s cricket coach Justin Langer announced his surprise resignation Saturday, just weeks after trouncing archrivals England in a lopsided Ashes series and months after winning the T20 World Cup.
The 51-year-old walked away from the top management job in Australian sports after failing to secure the public support of key players and acrimonious contract talks with governing body Cricket Australia.
Board members held lengthy discussions about Langer’s future into Friday night, but failed to reach an agreement on a new deal with the former Test batsman.
The coach is said to have bristled at being asked to effectively reapply for his job and being offered a “short-term extension” to his contract, despite a stellar record that culminated in a 4-0 Ashes victory and Australia being ranked the world’s number one Test team.
Sports management company DSEG announced Langer’s departure in a terse statement saying “our client Justin Langer has this morning tendered his resignation as coach of the Australian mens cricket team”.
“The resignation follows a meeting with Cricket Australia last evening. The resignation is effective immediately.”
Cricket Australia said it had accepted Langer’s resignation, while praising his “outstanding leadership”.
“Justin is not only a legend of the game but an outstanding individual,” it said, adding Andrew McDonald has been appointed as interim head coach.
– ‘Grumpy’ –
As a player, Langer’s searing intensity drove him to greatness with the bat.
But it also appeared to play a role in his downfall, despite his success reviving the scandal-tainted side’s fortunes.
Langer took the job in 2018, with Australian cricket at its lowest ebb for decades in the wake of a cheating affair.
Langer’s long-time partner at the crease Matthew Hayden said he had restored pride in their beloved baggy green cap.
“He came into one of the most toxic environments in Australian sport” Hayden told ABC. “It had been disgraced and dishonoured.”
Langer not only ended the rot but oversaw a string of wins that took Australia back to the top of the Test rankings and culminated in recent victories in the T20 World Cup and the Ashes.
But somewhere along the way, Langer lost support in the dressing room, with disgruntled players complaining anonymously to local media about his “headmaster-like” leadership style.
“I am intense, yeah, I am serious, I am — do I get grumpy sometimes? Yeah, I get grumpy sometimes,” Langer acknowledged early last year.
“I’m not perfect that’s for sure.”
– ‘Man manager’ needed –
Former captain Tim Paine — another post-scandal appointment who was a key ally in rebuilding the team’s tattered reputation — instigated talks between the coach and players last August that helped paper over the cracks.
Langer reportedly pledged to stop micromanaging the team’s affairs and relax his confrontational personal manner.
Grumblings about his behaviour re-emerged shortly after a sexting scandal forced Paine’s departure on the eve of the Ashes and intensified as contract negotiations opened with Cricket Australia.
Public support from Paine’s replacement Pat Cummins was lukewarm at best.
“It lies in Cricket Australia’s hands,” he said. “They’re just going through an evaluation process at the moment which I think is fair and the right thing to do.”
Former captain Mark Taylor said he suspected Langer had completed the job he was brought in to do and Cricket Australia now wanted “more of a man manager and less of an absolute cricket coach and disciplinarian”.
Regardless of how his tenure as coach ended, Langer’s feats with the bat have already sealed a spot in Australian cricket’s Hall of Fame.
He played 105 Tests from 1993 to 2007, averaging 45.27 and amassing 7,696 runs, including 23 centuries.
Langer was part of a golden era for Australian cricket, with greats such as Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath and Ponting in the all-conquering team.
He attributed his success to dogged determination rather than dazzling natural ability and expected those around him to display the same unwavering application.
Langer and Hayden 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.