There were several big names in the running to become Australia’s new head coach but, in my eyes, the job could not have gone to anyone more deserving than my old mate Justin Langer.
Having had the privilege of sharing a dressing room with JL for many years with Perth and then the Australian Test side, there was never any doubt in my eyes that he had all the credentials needed for the top job one day.
There were a couple of other names in the frame; Jason Gillespie, who has proved himself to be a fine coach with a proven track record both in England and Australia, and of course Ricky Ponting, a legend of the game whose name will always be synonymous with the Baggy Greens.
But, for me, Langer is the right man to come in, and at just the right time, to help take this exciting group of young players forward.
All throughout his playing career, Justin was always someone who was open to learn new things, and quickly, and would thrive on any personal challenge set him to get better every day.
As a coach, he has great character, determination, integrity and pride to succeed as well as a responsibility built into him to ensure his players have the same. It’s no coincidence that in his five years coaching Western Australia that the Scorchers have enjoyed their most successful period in the last decade or so.
Just look at how he’s revitalised the careers of Shaun Marsh and Mitch Marsh into becoming Test regulars, not to mention the likes of Adam Voges and Michael Klinger in the twilights of their careers. He demanded excellence.
JL is also the best trainer, and the fittest, I ever worked with. He lifted others around him to another level. Like Ponting and Gillespie, he came from a golden era of Australian cricket, under Steve Waugh, which was packed with natural leaders and whose professionalism was ahead of their times. I see Langer as a very similar character to Steve in many ways and I’m sure if you asked him he would list Steve as a big influence on his career.
I have no doubt that Dizzy (Gillespie) or Ponting would have been good appointments also – and their day may yet come – but the timing just feels right for Langer now, I feel.
One thing’s for sure, whoever would have taken over will not be seeing a repeat of the unsavoury goings-on in South Africa earlier back in March with the ball-tampering scandal.
Yes, Australian cricket is facing a challenge right now, and those issues will not go away easily, but a thick line has been drawn under the matter and lessons have been well and truly learned. From those on the field to the Cricket Board and down to the fans, it’s affected a lot of people and has been a huge wake-up call for everyone.
One challenge JL will thrive on is integrating the three guys implicated in the scandal (Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft) back into the fold once their year-long bans expire.
All three must reform themselves and earn respect back from their team-mates and the Australian public before they can push for a place back in the Australian side, and JL will, I’m sure, give them every opportunity to do just that.
They, of course, are due back in time to face England in the Ashes series next summer, but that couldn’t have been further from his mind when questioned during his press conference on Wednesday – he’s already looking at the bigger picture.
It’s been 14 years since an Australian side won a Test series in India – a series Langer still describes as the ‘Mount Everest’ of his career.
It’s the return to the sub-continent in 2021 which remains the Baggy Greens’ ultimate goal and Cricket Australia couldn’t have a better man in which to achieve it.
First, though, there is a far more immediate challenge for Langer and his team, however, as they take on India in a four-match Test series at home in December.
India have never won a Test series in Australia but, without world-class players such as Smith and Warner, keeping that record intact will be no easy task for Justin – especially with the likes of Virat Kohli looking to give him a rude awakening.