'Coach Grumpy': Cricket Australia defends Langer's leadership

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Australia cricket coach Justin Langer is under pressure over his management style
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Cricket Australia chief Nick Hockley defended Justin Langer Wednesday after mounting concern over his management style sparked uncertainty around his position heading into the Twenty20 World Cup and a home Ashes series.

The Australian head coach was forced to address negative feedback earlier this year when discontent surfaced about his "headmaster-like" leadership and shifting moods.

He took the criticism on board and admitted he had been "grumpy and intense" most of his life.

Langer faced controversy again last week after reports of a heated argument with a Cricket Australia journalist following a poor white-ball tour of the West Indies and Bangladesh.

The confrontation is said to have taken place in the team hotel, with players and staff watching, leading to feverish media speculation over his future.

Hockley praised the "incredible job" Langer had done in rebuilding the culture of Australian cricket since being hired in the aftermath of the notorious "Sandpaper-gate" ball-tampering tour of South Africa in 2018.

"His efforts have restored public faith in the national team, which is a side all Australians can be incredibly proud of," he said in a statement.

Hockley didn't directly address Langer's management style but noted it had been an "extremely disruptive and challenging 18 months" during the pandemic with border closures and cricketers living in bio-secure bubbles.

"Despite those challenges the side has had great success in one-day, Test and T20 cricket, when all players were available," he said.

"Justin, his coaching staff and the leaders within the team have an equally important part to play in ensuring a successful summer ahead for the Australian cricket team."

Earlier this week, Langer's friend and former teammate Adam Gilchrist said growing speculation around his position could "derail the summer", while urging Cricket Australia to stamp out leaks to the media.

"The bigger issue... is the fact these journalists have a direct line of contact with people within the inner sanctum there, and the people in that inner sanctum are happy to let it get out," he said.

- Hair trigger -

White ball skipper Aaron Finch said he believed Australia's recent poor form had amplified tension related to Langer, but it wasn't "a great look" that teammates were leaking details.

"There's always tension when results don't go your way," he told SEN commercial radio Wednesday. "It's disappointing that things are coming to the front the way that they are."

While Langer has been widely praised for restoring the culture of the Australian team, rumours of dressing-room friction have never been far away.

Malcolm Conn, who was media manager for the Australian team during their 2019 Ashes tour of England, said he respected Langer but quickly learned to stay out of his way.

"You were never certain whether your question was going to be met with an answer or an explosion," he wrote in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Conn detailed players walking on egg shells around Langer and his "sudden obsession with things that... didn't seem to matter".

"Like many of these minor incidents, Langer's latest blow-up at a Cricket Australia digital journalist during the recent tour of Bangladesh is nothing in isolation, but contributes to a pattern of erratic behaviour," he added.

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