After much speculation, Justin Langer has been appointed as the new coach of the Australian cricket team. The 47-year-old former opener takes over the role left vacant by his predecessor Darren Lehmann following the ball-tampering saga that rocked the Australian cricket establishment.
The former Western Australia and Perth Scorchers coach will have his task cut out in taking over a side still reeling from the effects of the ball-tampering episode which has seen Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft being handed suspensions from the game.
As Langer gets ready to begin his four-year stint, we take a look at five things the Aussie coach will need to sort out.
RESTORING TRUST OF THE AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC
It is safe to say that the Australian public’s trust in the men’s national team is at an all-time low. Never has the Australian team come under such severe backlash from all quarters ever since the infamous ‘underarm’ incident against New Zealand in 1981.
Australia is a country with a proud sports culture and cricket holds a special place. While it is often said jokingly that the importance of the Australian cricket captain is only secondary to the Prime Minister, the game remains ingrained in the public’s persona.
At a time when cricket is facing challenges from other sports in the country, it is even more imperative for Langer to get the house in order as soon as possible to mitigate the damage.
CHANGING THE DRESSING ROOM CULTURE
One of the biggest criticisms aimed at Lehmann and his Australian team was towards the toxic, win-at-all-cost attitude installed in the dressing room. While the Aussies have always been known to play hard, it felt like the line was being crossed on multiple occasions during Lehmann’s reign.
That approach will have to be eroded completely and a more fine line will need to be struck. Langer would do well to recreate the approach of playing hard, but fair cricket adopted by the likes of Steve Waugh during his playing days. For this, Langer will need to work closely with skipper Tim Paine as Australian cricket looks to bounce back from its nadir.
DEFENCE OF THE ICC WORLD CUP
Less than a year remains for the ICC 50-over World Cup in England in 2019 and as such, Langer will need to get the defending champions back on track in their preparation for the marquee event.
Choosing a limited-overs skipper for the side will be the first and foremost errand for the new coach. With a limited-overs tour of England coming up soon, it would represent the perfect opportunity for Langer to try out a few things.
The likes of Aaron Finch and even Mitchell Marsh have been bandied about for the Australia captaincy and it will be interesting to see whom Langer and the selectors ultimately lean on.
As Australian cricket looks to regain the trust of the public, not many things beat an Ashes victory over old foes England for the average Australian. While the Aussies might have handed a 4-0 thumping to the visiting Englishmen only last year, the wait for the next Ashes series will not be long.
With England holding the hosting rights for 2019, it will not be an easy task for the Australians, especially with Smith and Warner’s one-year bans still likely to be in effect when the series arrives.
The loss of Smith’s and Warner’s batting prowess cannot be understated and Langer will need to put together a rejigged but formidable batting unit if his side is to have any chance in the swinging conditions of England.
REINTEGRATING SMITH AND WARNER
While Langer did open the doors for Smith’s and Warner’s return to the team following their suspensions in his first press-conference as Australia coach, it will be easier said than done.
Returning to the cricketing field after such a long and drawn out public outrage will be a testing period for the two senior batsmen and how Langer handles this reintegration could very well be the defining moment of his tenure.
Langer’s coaching credentials are as high as they come and he will need to draw on all his experience in putting Australian cricket back on track.
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