The head coach of the Australian men's team - Justin Langer addressed a press conference where he took on questions on a number of topics. Here are the excerpts.
On how the last few days have been
It has been a tough few days. You’re dealing with people, your friends and you see the human side of it. There’s people who are losing their jobs – whether it was Kevin Roberts or some of our staff yesterday. Reality is that it’s happening across all industries, not just cricket but in footy, rugby all sport, the corporate sectors. It’s a tough time but we all have to deal with it and in leadership roles as hard as it is, you’ve got to take it on with integrity and honesty and get the job done.
Since the day COVID hit we’ve been wondering what’s going to happen. We’re going to concentrate our efforts on being ready whether we play cricket in England or we play the World Cup or we play against India during the summer. Our job is to make sure that our players are ready for the next contest that comes up. There’s been plenty of planning going on. Unfortunately, there was some bad news yesterday. If there’s any silver lining in there is some clarity now – clarity of our staff moving forward. We still haven’t got clarity on the schedule but clarity is really crucial. With that clarity we can start thinking about being ready for whatever is to come up.
Consequences of the cuts within Cricket Australia
With the Under-15s and Under-17s with some of the cuts at NCC, what I think what will happen is there will be more emphasis will be put back on club cricket at the state to take up more professional programs to take more of responsibility to roll out a bit like it used to be. The times have certainly changed. The NCC which used to be so iconic in Australian cricket 20-odd years ago when I started playing. The states are so much more professional and they run such professional programs. I’m sure we’ll keep an eye on the best young talent. We have to find different ways of doing that. But the talent will always be there. We have to make sure that we keep guiding it and keep it our focus as much as we can in the short term, but certainly, with an eye to it in the medium and longer terms.
Surprised with how COVID-19 has hit cricket?
Not at all. One of the things with my involvement with the West Coast Eagles football club and the AFL, we will be absolutely naïve to think that cricket will be immune to it. Our timing is probably has been as good as it could be for some of the other sports. If you look at rugby league, rugby union and AFL – the three of the football codes. If anyone thinks it wasn’t going to hit Cricket Australia, we’d be crazy to think that. It’s affecting everybody and a lot of people are throwing lots of arrows – why has it hit cricket as it has. But we’re no different, we’re not immune to it. With some of the forecasts with what’s going to happen in the future, there’s going to be some cuts, there have to be some cuts to be made.
On the next Cricket Australia CEO
What I know, is from now until the roles advertised or the process starts, we’re going to hear all sorts of names come up. When the head coaching position comes up, every name imaginable – I’ll leave that to you guys to speculate and come up with names and knock yourselves out in the media of who it could be. Straussy [Andrew Strauss] is a great friend of mine, but Christine's names come up and she's a great friend of mine. There's going to be lots of really good friends of mine who come up for this coveted position, which is the CEO of Cricket Australia. For now, my role will be to support Nick Hockley. He has played some strong parts in two of the great events of the Women’s T20 World Cup last year. What an event that was! One of the highlights of probably Australian cricket history, actually. The men’s World Cup before. I’ll support him at the moment. Then, I’ll look forward to see what happens through the process. From now it’s almost a part of the theatre of all these names that’ll come up until someone’s appointed.
Thoughts on the public reaction to the cuts
Who knows how the Australian public reacts, I’ve got no idea. We know our role and I’ve said it almost every day for two years it to make Australians proud of us. We can control what we do and whoever gets that role I’m sure they’ll through a pretty stringent process to get the right person and they can help us in making Australians proud of our cricket team.
Christina is a great friend of mine. She was outstanding supporter of mine. We worked really well together at the WACA. She honest, she’s very hardworking, very intelligent lady and a great mate. I’ll be really biased if I keep talking about Chris’ or if I talk about Andrew Strauss or a whole host of people until we see whoever is in that role like I did with Kevin Roberts will have my absolute support. One of things I know is really powerful is that I know whether it’s from the chairman to the CEO or the high performance manager, the head coach and the captains that all leaderships going in the same direction. If we’re all going in the same direction, then it’s really powerful. If we’re not, it’s disastrous – that’s a big lesson I’ve learned about leadership for a long time. Let’s just hope that we can bring it all in together. The players’ association as well, with the states and territories we bring it all together. It’s really powerful and a lot to look forward to with India coming up and a World Cup at some point and the Ashes next year. There’s a lot to look forward to. Hopefully there’s some clarity at the moment from yesterday. We can enjoy the silver-linings or the light at the end of the tunnel.
On Kevin Roberts
I know he is incredibly hardworking. I know he’s incredibly passionate about the game of cricket. He is a fantastic person. I was really sad to see what happened to him yesterday. I was sad to see it playing it out in public like it did before he probably knew about it. That was disappointing. But he worked very hard. He came into a terrible time with COVID-19 has literally affected everyone in the world. There wouldn’t be anyone here or listening to this press conference or watching what I’m saying who hasn’t been affected by COVID and that includes some of the leaders around the world, around Australia and in our sport. So, Kevin Roberts had become a good mate and I’m really sorry for him.
On giving Graeme Hick the bad news
That’s the human side of it. Having to tell Graeme Hick yesterday morning was like facing [Curtly] Ambrose and [Courtney] Walsh without a helmet and a box on. I was that nervous because you become really close to your staff. He has become a really good mate. His work ethic is second to none. His integrity as a person – you couldn’t meet a nicer person. So, having to tell him that his role had become redundant yesterday was really hard. Like so many businesses, no different to that of AFL where you have to trim it back and we’re going to have really good people to get the job done. We’ve got really good people, then we’ve got competent people, we have to lead a smaller staff but we’ll get the job done and we’ll be ready when cricket resumes.
On the COVID break
We’ve got so much talent. I’ve really enjoyed this COVID break. We were away 300 days last year. Just to be home every day has been awesome. I’ve had contract meetings with the players in the last few weeks and to see their faces on Zoom and realise what incredible talent we’ve got not only on the field, but off the field. They’re just really talented cricketers and I got excited about that. When we work with those sort of players, who are all hungry as well and are jumping out of their skin to play cricket again. Whoever our staff around them is not that hard a job as we’ve got such great resources to work with.
On Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association
Yeah, look, the reality is, it’s so complex and some of the great corporate minds who I'm lucky to talk to day to day, it's complex for them, let alone sportsmen. What’s important is that Cricket Australia and the ACA work really hard together, to get the messages out there to the players. In a sense the players aren’t the ACA, because it's too complex to work through all these issues. So ACA administrators and CA administrators work through it behind closed doors and work together and am sure we’ll come out with a good solution.
Of course, it is just one of the complexities of the game and the system we’re working and I'm confident we’ll work through it.
On players' fitness
One thing I know is that the players are extremely fit, which is awesome. I have actually enjoyed this period, they are back working with their states, which is a real positive for them and it’s a positive for the states allowing our players go back to their states as leaders and really lead the way. It is like going into the past where they come straight from the state and straight into Australian cricket so that’s a positive. I’ve also loved the fact that they had to go and get themselves strong and stay healthy without all the resources. It wasn’t that long ago, if you want to be in the Australian cricket team, you had to be the best of the best and you had to work it out yourself. You didn’t have lots of coaches, sports psychologist or sports scientists, you had to work it out yourself and I can’t wait to see the boys come back, their results will go through their roof. I mean the physical results, they have all got smiles on their faces, they are excited about playing cricket again, they have enjoyed this break, it's been going for a long time. So it's nice to see them all back together, I am really confident that they will be in great condition, they’ll be energized and enthusiastic about it and we’ll get a bit of match practice under our belt and look out. We'll be ready to go.
On players' mental health and safety
One thing we can be certain of is the mental health is very high priority for us at the moment and my understanding is that, certainly our two main sports are those in the men and the women's team, that remain the same, there is another high profile or very important role in psychology that still on the table of Cricket Australia. So the health of our players, I mean if they are happy off the field, they will be good on the field, because they are talented in their workouts. So that’s a high priority that won’t change.
About the support to his players
Well the thing is, again if they form a strong relationship that has got to stop because they are not employed with us anymore, relationships are universal. If I had a batting coach when I was a player, I can always ring him and get the advice I needed. What we have seen through the incredible technology platforms, we can be talking to each other and that won’t cease, relationships should never cease on the back of a contract, particularly if the relationship is strong. As I said, I am really confident we’ll be able to support our players very well, they have been supported brilliantly for a long time and there is no reason why they won’t be supported equally as well now.
On not playing at the new stadium in Perth for the India series
I was disappointed, I was born and bred Western Australian and I obviously would love to play India at the new stadium in Perth. Again, what happens with the schedule moving forward, there is a lot of moving parts here. There is an ICC meeting in July and then we’ll know about the World Cup (T20 WC), from the World Cup we’ll know about the IPL and about the Test series (India in Australia) also about the Afghanistan Test match. There are so many moving parts at the moment, so I am sure we will have to look at the schedule and see what happens when the summer comes up.
About the Australian players playing in England
If you would’ve asked me two weeks back, I would have said no chance. If you’re standing here now, I would say, there’s a good chance. I would imagine, as important it is for India to come to Australia, the Australian cricket team going to England and play cricket is equally important for English cricket. So, we’re all in this together, we are going to help each other out and time will tell. There will be complexities, isolation when we come back into our domestic season. But as everyone saw, there are solutions for those complexities and they have the right people to make the right decisions.