Former Australia opener Justin Langer has been named as head coach of the national side. He will replace Darren Lehmann who had stepped down following the ball-tampering controversy involving Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.
Cricket Australia announced that Langer will take charge of the national team for a four-year period which will see two Ashes series, a World Cup and a World T20 tournament. And while Langer, 47, was always seen as the possible successor to Lehmann, his current appointment comes earlier than expected - and not at the most opportune time. The veteran of 105 Tests in which he averaged 45.27, Langer is expected to have an uphill task getting the Australian team back on its feet after the crippling ball-tampering controversy in South Africa. "It is humbling to be appointed as coach of the Australian men's cricket team," he was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au. "I am very excited about the scope I now have to coach the country that supported me so much in my cricketing career. There will be some significant challenges ahead for our group, but there is a wealth of talent in Australian cricket that I know will do us all proud."
There were some other names doing the rounds too, including that of Jason Gillespie and David Saker. Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland however said Langer's recent coaching performance made him a favourite choice. "We firmly believe Justin is the right person to lead this team and have huge confidence in what he will bring to the role," he said.
Langer will now have to not just inspire his team on the field but off it as well.
With Smith and Warner banned for a year, and young Bancroft being suspended for nine months, the national team has indeed taken a pounding on its morale. Lehmann, though not involved in the incident and apparently unaware as well, had decided to step down following emotional press conferences by Smith and Warner. "Australian cricket needs to move forward and this is the right thing to do," he had said at the time of announcing his resignation.
Australia is currently ranked fifth in ODIs and third in Tests. With almost every international team looking to kickstart preparations for the World Cup in England next year, Australia too would be hoping to bury the past and have Langer lead them in reclaiming lost glory.