Australia coach Justin Langer has revealed that the first six months of his job were so stressful that it took an emotional toll on him and his family as well. Despite wanting the job for a while, even applying when Mickey Arthur got it, he didn’t enjoy the start of his tenure.
The former opener took charge of the team after Darren Lehmann stepped down and the team was reeling in the aftermath of the ball-tampering scandal last year that saw the then captain Steve Smith, vice captain David Warner and Cameron Bancroft banned. The poor results as a team that followed didn’t make things any easier.
Speaking to ESPNCricinfo ahead of the Ashes starting August 1, Langer said that an incident that moved his wife Sue to tears during the drawn fourth Test against India in affected him deeply because his family was getting hurt.
“I’ve known my wife since I was 14 years old, so she knows everything about me, and they were leaving. They were leaving that day, and we were at breakfast at 8 o’clock and my wife started crying at the breakfast table in front of my daughters,” Langer recalled.
“I said what’s going on, I had never see my wife cry – we know everything about each other. She said ‘I just don’t like what’s happening here, I don’t like what it’s doing to you, I don’t like what it’s doing to us, people are so mean, what people are saying about you and the team and Australian cricket’. That was a real eye opener for me – that it was affecting my family,” he said.
India won both the Test and ODI series by a 2-1 margin. A tense exchange with a journalist on all-rounder Glenn Maxwell’s Test future was another instance which made Langer feel that perhaps the pressure of the job was a bit too much.
“I got, I’d say two out of 10 grumpy with the journalist in Sydney, and I was also amazed at the backlash of that as well,” Langer said.
“I apologised straight after the event, that’s me, but I realised then and the way people said ‘he’s getting angry, he’s losing it’. I didn’t feel that but my wife was getting upset, that was a real moment.”
But if the home series loss to India was tough, the Ashes will be a whole different level of pressure and scrutiny despite the return of his best batsmen.
The coach knows that his team will be greeted by hostile crowds during the intense Test series in England. During the recently concluded World Cup, Smith and Warner were booed by large sections of the home crowd and more of it is expected in the upcoming Ashes. This will only get worse with the banned trio back in Test whites.
“We’ve had a pretty good snapshot of what to expect from the crowds here in England. We respect if that’s how they want to react, that’s fine – there’s nothing we can do about it,” the former Australia opener said.
“Our boys were brilliant throughout the World Cup, and I expect them to be brilliant dealing with it throughout the Ashes as well. I know it’s going to be tough on them. We’ll just get on with the job and play the best cricket we can,” he said.
Read the full interview here