Australian cricket greats responded to Justin Langer’s resignation as coach with sadness and anger on Saturday.
Langer, a storied Test batsman-turned-coach, left the role after failing to secure the support of key players and following acrimonious contract talks with governing body Cricket Australia.
Langer’s long-time partner at the crease, Matthew Hayden, led emotional tributes that were barbed with anger at the way events had unfolded.
On the verge of tears, and having to pause mid-interview to compose himself, Hayden said he was “pretty emotional” at the news.
He said Langer – who took up the role in 2018 as Australian cricket was reeling from the Sandpapergate ball-tampering scandal that shocked the nation – had ended a toxic win-at-all-costs culture and made Australians proud of their team again.
“He came into one of the most toxic environments in Australian sport,” Hayden told ABC. “It had been disgraced and dishonoured.”
“We in the Australian cricket community love Justin because he came in and said, ‘No way, we’re going to play this game in a manner that actually is going to make Australians proud again’.”
“Not about winning, not about losing – because you know, plenty of that in professional sport – but to make the public proud.”
“For that father to look down at his son and go, ‘This is the Australian cricket team’. Gosh, that’s what JL brought back to us,” he said, his voice wavering.
Langer and Hayden became one of the most prolific opening batting combinations in history, seeing off the new ball in 113 Tests for a combined 5,655 runs at an average of 51.58.
Despite Cricket Australia’s insistence that Langer was “not only a legend of the game but an outstanding individual”, there is simmering anger at the way his departure was handled.
Another of Langer’s playing partners, legendary Australia Test captain Ricky Ponting, expressed his frustration while playing down talk of a widespread player revolt against Langer’s brusque style.
“A very small group of the playing group and – he believes – a couple of other staff around the team haven’t entirely loved the way that he’s gone about it,” Ponting said.
“That’s been enough to force a man that’s put his life and heart and soul into Australian cricket and done what I believe a sensational job … that has been enough to push him out of his dream job.
“I actually think it’s a really sad day as far as Australian cricket is concerned,” Ponting told ABC.
© Agence France-Presse