Australian head coach Justin Langer has hit back at suggestions Test players are unhappy with his coaching style, arguing leadership ‘isn’t a popularity contest’.
A report in the Sydney Morning Herald, which cited sources close to the team, claimed some players had grown weary of Langer’s intense style and that his duties as coach of the Test, ODI and T20 teams as well as a selector were becoming too much.
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According to the report, players were becoming frustrated by Langer’s mood swings and alleged attempts to micro-manage players.
Langer struggled to find a way to reverse the team’s fortunes during the lost Border-Gavaskar series, in which India bounced back from a trouncing in the first Test to eventually retain the series trophy with a 2-1 victory, capped by a stunning fourth Test win at the Gabba.
However the Australian coach hit back at criticism of his style, saying “leadership isn’t a popularity contest” and disputing suggestions his relationships with players were on the rocks.
Just let them all toughen up a bit and think of how Langer had to fight like a warrior to make it and stay there. Is the new breed just a bit more precious than those that have played before them? #getonwithit
— Michael Maney (@MichaelManey2) January 29, 2021
“If players just want someone to tickle their stomachs all the time then I’m not doing my job,” he said.
Langer defended his high standards for the team, which included him reportedly scolding a player during the fourth Test in Brisbane for repeatedly stuffing toasted sandwiches in their pockets.
“You’re walking on against India, we’re trying to win a Test match and one of our players walks on with a toasted sandwich in his hand,” Langer said.
“I spoke to (the player) about it at length yesterday. I said, ‘How do you reckon it looks, mate?’ Is that not something I should say?”
Some players have been irked by Justin Langer's request to a player that they....
not jam a toasted sandwich in their pocket to eat on the field https://t.co/LhL8mMsIln
— Sam Wilkinson (@WilkoSam) January 29, 2021
The SMH report suggested the stresses of competing in the midst of a pandemic was also taking its toll, with players coming in and out of quarantine for the IPL, Test series in Australia and soon again for the upcoming tour of South Africa.
Langer said dealing with that was simply part of the job for the time being.
“There are stresses to the job. It’s a big job,” he said.
Paine's critics 'wide of the mark': Hohns
When Australia's selection panel sat to draft their squad to tour South Africa, Tim Paine's position as captain wasn't even discussed.
The wicketkeeper's future as a player and leader was questioned during and after India's enthralling comeback series win, Paine anticipating the backlash when he spoke after Australia's historic defeat in Brisbane this month.
But he has the backing of selectors and will captain the side if March's three-Test tour - still to be confirmed subject to biosecurity clearance - goes ahead.
"Tim's leadership was never in question; we did not spend one minute on Tim's leadership during our selection meeting," chief selector Trevor Hohns said.
"He's been a terrific leader of this team through some pretty trying circumstances and some of the criticism he's endured has been pretty wide of the mark - and in poor taste from some people overseas.
"We're all disappointed (to lose the series), but the criticism of Tim Paine has been totally unfair."
Hohns said he had reflected on his own actions during the four Tests but said he wasn't sure whether there "was anything we could have done differently".
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