Australia’s coach Justin Langer has been compelled to cede control, not only to the national captains but also his senior assistant coaches, in the search for vital stability ahead of Twenty20 World Cup and Ashes campaigns over the closing months of his contract.
Sources close to the team have told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that Langer has been asked to take more of a back seat, strategic role and avoid the temptation to reactively micro-manage or overturn plans being set in place for these two major assignments.
Australian cricket coach Justin Langer with rugby coach Dave Rennie at Wallabies training in Perth.Credit:Andrew Phan/Wallabies Media
Feedback to Langer has been very much geared at ensuring he is not unnecessarily sidetracked by matters better left to others in the setup. This, sources said, was a two-way street in that there were some things Langer did not need to be across, but also some things that staff needed to be comfortable tackling without constant referral back to the head coach.
Langer’s close friend and team manager Gavin Dovey has had the high-performance portion of his role handed over to the new head of the men’s program, Brian McFadyen – leaving Dovey to concentrate solely on the logistical and health challenges of getting the team around Australia and the world. Dovey is currently spending time with his family in the UK and is not going to the World Cup.
This means a more central role not only for the national team’s on-field leaders Tim Paine, Aaron Finch and Pat Cummins, but also for senior assistants Andrew McDonald (appointed in late 2019), Michael Di Venuto, and Jeff Vaughan (hired earlier this year).
Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley said the conversations kicked off by his emergency meeting with Paine, Finch and Cummins on August 18, alongside CA chair Earl Eddings, meant that no one was left in any doubt about what roles they should be performing over the next six months.
Justin Langer, left, has been asked to take more of a back seat, strategic role.Credit:Getty
“Over the course of the last two or three weeks we’ve had some extremely constructive discussions, very direct, very honest discussions, largely around role clarity and accountability,” Hockley said. “Through the feedback we’ve got a really clear set of expectations and a really clear plan about how we’re going to collectively lead through these really important upcoming campaigns.”
Asked directly whether these discussions meant that the role of the captains would be returned to something more traditional than the recent trend towards Langer being the dominant leadership figure in the team, Hockley said: “I think it’s about clarity of expectations all round. We’ve got world-class leaders across the playing group and throughout the coaching outfit, and it’s about how everyone takes accountability for their role and their space. There’s no more pressurised environment than a World Cup and a home Ashes series. We’ve now got that clarity, we’ve got those relationships in place, the ability to have those discussions.”
As for why CA’s executive and board took a long time to respond to increasing levels of discontent emanating from within the team, Hockley said that the challenges of COVID-19 had made such issues harder to deal with quickly.
“Last year was tricky in the sense that players were all in biosecure bubbles,” he said. “So certainly for myself and [head of national teams] Ben Oliver, being able to have the time to calmly work through and have those discussions, it’s been really constructive. I couldn’t be more impressed or prouder of the way that the player leaders have stood up.”
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