Pressure on Langer to change his ways as reviews turn up heat on embattled coach
A robust end-of-season review of players and support staff shows Justin Langer needs to change his ways, as players move to take greater control of the dressing room heading into the final year of the coach’s contract.
The Test great was given what sources familiar with the matter say was strong and straightforward feedback about his coaching style, while team manager Gavin Dovey was also not spared.
As revealed by the Herald and The Age after Australia’s shock home defeat to India in January, there was widespread player dissatisfaction about Langer’s intense management style and frustration at the team being brought down by the coach’s shifting moods.
Justin Langer has been given strong feedback from players over his intense coaching style.Credit:Getty Images
The responses came as part of the team’s regular end-of-season reviews, which sources say canvassed the opinions of up to 40 players and support staff.
It was not set up as a reaction to the report in the Herald and The Age, but has nevertheless confirmed discontent towards the coach.
A second review process was conducted by leadership consultant Tim Ford and will reaffirm the players’ intent to take more ownership of the side and lay down their own values, as opposed to those set by Langer upon his appointment in 2018.
Team leaders Tim Paine, Pat Cummins and Aaron Finch will be presented with the report by Ford when they meet next week. Ford was hired by Cricket Australia two years ago to facilitate the reintegration of Steve Smith and David Warner into the side after their ball-tampering bans.
Ford interviewed players virtually towards the end of the home season, with their responses to be kept anonymous. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, in a wide-ranging review, which checked on player welfare at the end of a difficult season, he asked for their thoughts on the team’s values and what needed updating since they last underwent the process with him two years ago.
Langer will also receive the feedback from Ford’s report though the comments were not as hard as the player review from the end of the season. Cricket Australia claims that the Ford process shows strong support for the coach.
“This is effectively identical to the process undertaken before the last World Cup and the 2019 Ashes where the team performed strongly,” CA’s national teams boss Ben Oliver said in a statement to the Herald and The Age.
The effect of Justin Langer’s shifting moods has also been raised. Credit:PA
“It’s part of our ongoing commitment to on- and off-field improvement and we expect it will have a similar benefit in the team’s preparation for the upcoming T20 World Cup and home Ashes.
“Tim is again assisting us as he has in the past with gathering feedback and insights from players and staff. It’s always a thought-provoking and energising process which we get great value from.”
A source with knowledge of the situation says Langer’s response during the remainder of the year will have a big bearing on whether the former Test opener’s contract is renewed.
The white-ball tour of the West Indies in June and July will be Langer’s first in charge since the shock Test series defeat to India last season.
Players believe Langer has absorbed the frank criticism, though they want to see if he returns to his old ways under game-day pressure.
It would take a disastrous turn of events in the Caribbean and on the yet-to-be-confirmed tour of Bangladesh for Langer not to remain at the helm for the defence of the urn this summer. Langer signed a four-year deal in 2018 after taking over in the wake of the sandpaper scandal in South Africa.
Andrew McDonald chats with Mitchell Starc during training for the Boxing Day Test in 2019.Credit:Getty
Langer was not part of the tour of New Zealand, where his senior assistant Andrew McDonald took over the reins, as it coincided with the postponed Test series in South Africa.
In contrast to reports from the dressing room during the Australian summer, players spoke glowingly in public of the mood and team environment under McDonald, whom members of the Test side had gravitated towards due to his more approachable manner.
Players are also at odds with team manager Dovey. His close relationship with Langer, along with Oliver’s perceived ties with Langer, has left team members feeling they have no outlet to address their concerns about the coach.
Sources with knowledge of the team say Dovey’s influence behind the scenes has grown since the departure of former coach Darren Lehmann.
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