Justin Langer says he considers Australia's cricketers to be like his 'little brothers', after greeting most of them face to face on Wednesday when he embarked on his commentary career for Channel 7. All eyes were on the former coach after an explosive interview in which he said people who had leaked against him to the media were 'cowards'.
His comments sparked another round of consternation about his ugly departure as coach of the Australian side, walking away after only being offered a six-month contract extension earlier in 2021. He later cleared the air with Test captain Pat Cummins, explaining that his 'cowards' comment had not been directed at players.
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Greeting the players prior to the first Test against the West Indies in his hometown of Perth, Langer said the reported tension between himself and the players had been overstated. Cummins, Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Green were among the throng of players who hugged and chatted to Langer.
Asked about the weeks worth of headlines in his first appearance in the Channel 7 commentary box, Langer said the 'perception' of the situation was not matches with what was actually happening behind the scenes. He spoke of the players he coached to a T20 World Cup and Ashes series triumph with glowing praise.
"Perception and reality. Perception often sells newspapers, the reality is these are like my little brothers," Langer said on the broadcast. "I love Australian cricket and I love being back and seeing the boys. I haven't seen them for nine months."
Langer added his interaction with the players on Wednesday went as planned. "There was lot of build up to it. It is exactly how I was expecting it to be today," he said.
"I've said it all along, they are like my little brothers. I mean I was with the guys for four years, I loved every minute of coaching Australia.
"We celebrated together, we came back from sandpaper-gate together, we came back through COVID together, we won the World Cup. We won The Ashes together. I've got great relationships with every one of these guys."
Marnus Labuschagne eyeing off potential double-ton in Perth
Marnus Labuschagne has set his sights on posting the second double century of his glittering Test career against the West Indies. The 28-year-old ended day one of the first Test unbeaten on 154, with Australia in the dominant position of 2-293 at Optus Stadium after winning the toss and electing to bat on Wednesday.
Steve Smith (59no) has the chance to post his 29th Test century when the action resumes on Thursday, but all eyes will be on Labuschagne in his quest for a double ton. Labuschagne's highest Test score is the 215 he posted against New Zealand in Sydney in 2020.
The 28-year-old is keen to get to the 200-mark again. "Whenever you're not out overnight on 150, the next stop is 200," Labuschagne said.
"If I'm able to stick to the process long enough ... I'm sure I"ll get there. But put that out of your mind, you've just got to take it ball by ball.
"If the 200 does come, that's great. But more importantly, it's just trying to get as many runs as we can in this first innings and put the pressure on the West Indies."
Labuschagne featured in all three games of the recent ODI series against England, but he had no trouble readapting to the red ball on the bouncy Optus Stadium deck.
"I grew up on red-ball cricket," Labuschagne said. "Dating back to our under 19s tournaments, it was red ball. I grew up in that space.
"I think that comes more naturally to me - going back to my roots. For someone like Davey (Warner) who came through the white-ball system, he tends to hit a lot more coming into red-ball cricket, because he's got to go the other way."
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