Justin Langer has ended six months of speculation over his role with the Australian men’s cricket team by resigning as head coach, as former Test captain Ricky Ponting labelled the treatment of his ex-teammate “embarrassing”. Uncertainty, which has swirled around Langer’s future since last August, remained following a lengthy Cricket Australia board meeting on Friday at which his role was the subject of “significant discussions”. After the seven-hour meeting the CA board failed to reach a resolution.
But on Saturday morning, Langer took the decision out of CA’s hands, with his management issuing a statement on social media to announce their client would be standing down immediately. “DSEG confirms that our client Justin Langer has this morning tendered his resignation as coach of the Australian mens cricket team,” the statement read. “The resignation follows a meeting with Cricket Australia last evening. The resignation is effective immediately.” Langer’s contract was due to expire in June and despite his recent on-field success – a T20 World Cup triumph and 4-0 Ashes drubbing of England – Langer’s old-school, direct style of man-management had been under scrutiny since a meeting between senior players and CA CEO Nick Hockley last August.
“The contract extension offered to Justin was the result of a thorough review process that evaluated many factors including future requirements of the team and the upcoming extensive schedule of fixtures. It included the opportunity to defend the T20 World Cup title in Australia at the end of this year,” Hockley said in a statement. “We are naturally disappointed Justin has decided against continuing as coach, but we respect his decision and wish him all the best in the future.”
Where Langer’s immediate future lies is unclear, but Andrew Strauss, England’s new interim team director, has offered credence to rumours linking Langer with their newly vacant England job. Strauss has taken over as English cricket’s temporary managing director, after Ashley Giles stepped down from the role this week following the Ashes debacle. Speaking hours before Langer quit his current post, Strauss said he “wouldn’t rule him out” as an option to replace the departing Chris Silverwood. The former England opener also made clear he was watching with interest as the situation played out in Australia.
Strauss and Langer share a close relationship, having played together at Middlesex. “I know him well and on the surface he’s done a very good job with that Australian cricket team so I wouldn’t rule him out [for the coaching job],” said Strauss. He did add, though: “I’m sure there are plenty of others as well.” On a day when batting coach Graham Thorpe became the third person to go following the Ashes, Strauss added: “I personally feel someone with an outside view who can check and challenge the thoughts within the dressing room is a healthy thing.” Ponting claimed it was clear Langer had been pushed by Cricket Australia given he wanted to continue on in the role. “It’s been a really poor six months with the way Cricket Australia have handled some of the better people in Australian cricket. Those being Justin Langer and Tim Paine [at the start of the summer],” Ponting told ABC. “I think it’s been almost embarrassing the way they handled those two cases.”
Ponting admitted he was disappointed Pat Cummins had not publicly backed the coach, but said he understood the captain was in a difficult situation. Ponting claimed it was “a very small group” of players and other support staff that had grown tired of Langer’s intense style, prompting his exit. “That’s been enough to force a man that has put his life and heart and soul into Australian cricket, [someone who has] done a sensational job of turning around the culture and the way the Australian cricket team has been looked at over the past three or four years. I actually think it’s a really sad day as far as Australian cricket is concerned.”
Ponting’s comments come after former coach John Buchanan blasted CA’s treatment of Langer on Friday night, after a seven-hour board meeting ended with them wanting to talk with him further. “I just think Cricket Australia have really hung Justin out to dry, and whether they are going to reappoint him or not going to reappoint him, it’s just become a real saga and I really don’t understand why it has to be,” Buchanan told 4BC radio.
“When he came in he was asked to do two things and that was to fix the culture of the team, make the Australian cricket team a likeable team again. Play hard, play fair and win some games. It just seems to be a drama that didn’t need to occur. It’s a very difficult job but one that he has demonstrated over four years or so that he has coped with very well.”
Langer’s resignation leaves CA little time to find a replacement before the team leave for a tour of Pakistan in less than a month. Andrew McDonald is expected to take over in the interim, having previously coached the side on white-ball tours in the absence of Langer.
McDonald is also the favourite to assume the role on a full-time basis with Trevor Bayliss and Jason Gillespie the other most likely candidates. Langer’s 55.5% win record in Test cricket is second only to Buchanan among all Australian coaches. He also led Australia’s first retention of the Ashes in England in 18 years in 2019, before winning the series in convincing fashion this summer, as well as claiming a maiden T20 World Cup title.