Pat Cummins' triumph at Cricket World Cup highlights ugly truth for Justin Langer

The Aussies have enjoyed an incredible year in 2023 after many said they would suffer under a new coach.

Pat Cummins and Justin Langer.
Pat Cummins and the Australian cricket team have thrived in the wake of Justin Langer's exit. Image: Getty

Whether you like it or not, the player-led push to replace Justin Langer as Australian cricket coach was the right call. And the triumph of Pat Cummins and his side at the Cricket World Cup only drives that home even more.

Langer stepped down from the role in 2022 when Cricket Australia only offered him a six-month contract extension, despite the coach leading his side to Ashes and T20 World Cup glory just months earlier. Langer saw it as a slap in the face considering the success he produced in his tenure, and a number of Aussie legends were left seething over how he was being treated.

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But the writing was on the wall that he'd lost the dressing room, with Cummins believed to one of a number of senior players who were keen for a change of coach. The players felt that Langer's intensity and passion for the sport went overboard at times, and were keen for someone to bring a more reasoned and calming presence to the job.

Assistant coach Andrew McDonald stepped in when Langer departed, and the naysayers said the team was bound to suffer as a result. But what McDonald and Cummins have produced over the last 18 months has been nothing short of staggering.

This year alone they won a Test match in India for just the second time in 18 years, retained the Ashes on English soil, won the World Test Championship and capped it all off with a World Cup. McDonald is yet to lose a Test match on home soil as head coach, and the chances of his success continuing against Pakistan and the West Indies this summer are through the roof.

Langer might have been treated unfairly and probably deserved better considering his legendary status in Australian cricket, but the fact of the matter is the players are entitled to have a coach that they can work and get along with. That fact is particularly pertinent in cricket, where the captain makes 90 per cent of the on-field calls and the coach is more of a man manager and strategist.

Pat Cummins and Justin Langer, pictured here before a Test in 2022.
Pat Cummins and Justin Langer in 2022. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Speaking in January this year, Cummins revealed how the players were always on 'tenterhooks' around Langer. “Players and staff really crave consistency,” he said. “Over the last couple of years, there were times when the environment just wasn’t that. Some people felt like they were walking on eggshells. The players wanted to create their own environment and it’s us taking responsibility for the team.”

Usman Khawaja said: “There was plenty of guys who don’t speak up, who don’t talk, and were afraid of JL. That’s the truth.” While Nathan Lyon added: “I’ve always said you can never criticise someone who is extremely passionate in what they do, and that’s exactly what JL is. Did I struggle with some of the ups and downs? Yeah. Probably the biggest feedback from myself was just emotional levels (from) JL.”

Pat Cummins and Mitch Marsh.
Pat Cummins and Mitch Marsh celebrate with the Cricket World Cup trophy. (Photo by Alex Davidson-ICC/ICC via Getty Images) (ICC via Getty Images)

Justin Langer blasted 'cowards' within Aussie cricket team

In November last year, Langer said he had been left deeply hurt by hearing positive feedback to his face, only to later read negative headlines about himself based on comments from anonymous sources. “Everyone was being nice to my face but I was reading about this stuff, and half of it ... I could not believe that is what was making the papers," Langer said.

“A lot of journalists use the word ‘source’. I would say, change that word to ‘coward’. A coward says, not a source. Because what do you mean ‘a source says’? They’ve either got an axe to grind with someone and they won’t come and say it to your face, or they’re just leaking stuff for their own agenda.”

Last month, Langer's great mate and fellow Aussie legend Matthew Hayden went so far as to say he'd never accept a job in the Australian cricket set-up due to the way Langer was treated. "I really love Australian cricket and I really love broadcasting on the current cricket team," he said. "I think they’re a magnificent team but in terms of an investment, no, it’s not something that I’d even consider.”

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