Months out from a summer that will include both a T20 World Cup and an Ashes series, the blowtorch is well and truly on Australian men’s coach Justin Langer.
Langer’s close friend and former teammate Adam Gilchrist has warned the media that reports of uncertainty surrounding his position as coach have the potential to “derail the summer”.
Reports of unrest during Langer’s tenure are well-documented, however alleged incidents inside the men’s camp are not just limited to players.
The Age reported last week that Langer and team manager Gavin Dovey had a recent heated confrontation with a Cricket Australia (CA) staffer.
The exchange with the staffer, which was described in The Age report as “animated”, concerned the publication of a video on CA’s website of the victorious Bangladesh squad singing their team song after they clinched a T20 series win over Australia.
The confrontation reportedly took place in the team hotel, with players and staff witnessing the incident.
Gilchrist has expressed concern this week: not about the confrontation itself, but rather the ease at which incidents inside the men’s squad are allegedly being leaked to the media.
“The bigger issue, and it will derail the summer if it doesn’t get sorted out, is the fact these journalists have [a] direct line of contact with people within the inner sanctum there, and the people in that inner sanctum are happy to let it get out”, Gilchrist told SEN Radio on Monday.
Gilchrist even advocated for Langer’s departure sooner rather than later if CA power brokers believed it was the right decision.
“Cricket Australia needs to try to address this very quickly,” Gilchrist said.
“If everyone believes the best thing to do is to move on from Justin Langer as a coach, do it sooner rather than later, because it is just going to create a side issue, which is going to continue to be a circus”.
‘Stop chatting to the media’
Gilchrist is not the only former player expressing concerns about the supposed thin walls inside the Australian men’s dressing room.
Former men’s captain Mark Taylor, speaking on Channel Nine on Sunday, pleaded with CA to stop leaks to the media.
“Stop chatting to media and get down and play some good cricket,” Taylor said.
“He’s the guy who’s taken over the side post-sandpaper-gate, obviously asked to bring some discipline and there’s no doubt he’s done that.
“Now there have been some questions about … how he goes about relaying those messages to the players.”
Like Test skipper Tim Paine, Langer came into his job at a low point in the recent history of the Australian men’s team.
He was thrust into the role in place of Darren Lehmann following the sandpaper scandal that took place during Australia’s 2018 Test series in South Africa.
Then-captain Steve Smith was stood down from his position and banned from international cricket for 12 months in the wake of the scandal, while Lehmann chose to quit as coach.
James Sutherland announced later in 2018 he would resign as chief executive, giving 12 months’ notice at the time.
It seems CA has again reached a turning point in the men’s game.
Each format has a different captain, 10 out of the 17 centrally contracted players are aged over 30, there have been three chief executives since 2018 and Langer is in the final year of his contract.
More staff changes
Dialogue in the media this winter suggested CA had a lack of confidence in its most senior staff.
Before players left for the Caribbean for the T20 and ODI series against West Indies in July, then-chair of the men’s national selection panel Trevor Hohns gave a warning to players.
Hohns said those players who chose to make themselves unavailable for the tour — including the likes of Steve Smith and David Warner — were “giving someone else an opportunity” to stake their claim for a spot in the T20 World Cup squad.
Ironically, it was Hohns himself who ended up packing his bags, with his resignation tendered following the tour.
Amidst all the uncertainty, it seems the players are at wits’ end and have resorted to voicing their concerns through the media.
Much like the Mickey Arthur “homework-gate” scandal of 2013, the Australian men’s performances of late have done little to draw attention away from Langer’s coaching style.
Australia has completed a dismal white-ball campaign recently, with series losses to Bangladesh and West Indies.
Given the magnitude of scrutiny Langer is facing in the media, a swift response from CA is necessary to shift the focus to the summer ahead.