Pat Cummins has described Justin Langer as a legend with a “fierce love of Australia” and rejected speculation that the former test opening batter’s intense approach to cricket was the catalyst for his contentious weekend departure as head coach.
Cummins, who took over as Australia’s test captain immediately before the recent Ashes series against England, was heavily criticized by some high-profile ex-international players for not publicly backing Langer ahead of the coach’s contract negotiations with the board last Friday.
“To speak about a decision, which was yet to be made and which is for Cricket Australia to make, would have put Cricket Australia and the team in an impossible position,” Cummins said in a statement released Wednesday in advance of a scheduled news conference. “I’d never do that.
“I believe in respecting the sanctity of the change room and the proper process.”
Langer quit on Saturday, announcing the decision via his management company as he traveled home across the country from Melbourne to Perth, after declining a six-month contract extension.
He later issued a statement apologizing if his intensity in the coaching environment caused problems for the players.
Media reports in the middle of 2021 suggested that some players were unhappy with Langer’s approach to coaching and sudden mood changes. Following meetings between team leaders and management, Langer started taking a less hands-on approach.
Australia subsequently won the Twenty20 World Cup in November and then comprehensively beat England 4-0, missing out on an Ashes test series sweep by just one wicket.
Usman Khawaja, who returned to Australia’s test lineup following a two-year absence late in the Ashes series last month, said there was no acrimony in the locker rooms and the environment between players and coaches was good.
But in the days after Langer’s decision to quit, the team came in for criticism amid speculation that Cricket Australia’s decision not to offer a longer contract extension was player driven.
Cummins said he could now “provide some clarity” after giving Langer and Cricket Australia four days to comment on the issue.
“Justin has acknowledged that his style was intense. And it was,” Cummins said. “He has apologized to players and staff for his intensity. I think the apology was unnecessary.”
Cummins said the players were OK with Langer’s intensity.
“It came from a good place — and his fierce love of Australia and the baggy green (Australia’s test cricket cap) — something which has served Australian cricket well for three decades,” Cummins said. “It’s what makes him a legend of the sport. And Justin’s intensity drove a better team culture and higher team standards.”
Cummins said Langer left significant legacies and he thanked him on behalf of the players.
“More than that, we owe him a lot and Justin will be a welcome face in the change room in the future,” he said. “So, his intensity was not the issue for players and the support staff.”
Cummins is with the Australian squad in Sydney preparing for a five-match Twenty20 international series against Sri Lanka.
His statement was published a day after Australia announced an 18-man squad for its first test series in Pakistan since 1998 — and its first in four years without Langer.
As well as being among Australia’s elite opening batters during a lengthy career, Langer has been attributed with helping rebuild and reshape the culture of the national team following the so-called Sandpapergate scandal in 2018.
Australia batter Cameron Bancroft was caught by television cameras trying to rough up one side of the ball with sandpaper in the third test against South Africa at Cape Town in March of that year and it became one of the lowest points in Australia’s sporting history.
Bancroft was subsequently suspended by Cricket Australia for nine months. Steve Smith and David Warner, who were captain and vice-captain at the time, were banned for 12 months. Both have since returned as senior batters for Australia.