In his first assignment as a head coach, Justin Langer decided to draw the line from the outset. Coaching Western Australia at the time, Langer had noticed a few players, including some that donned the baggy green for Australia, had celebrated the team’s entry into a Sheffield Shield final play-off match rather too ecstatically.
Next morning, as the team assembled in the bus to the airport, Langer asked all of them to jump off the bus and made them run up and down a grass bank for half an hour. The purpose of the exercise took the fundamentals out of one of Langer’s favourite books, the title of which reads: ‘No A@#hole Rule’. Appointed the new head coach of Australia on Thursday, Langer now has the responsibility of instilling that title into the Australian cricket culture.
Langer's love for the game is infectious and his pride for the baggy green is immeasurable. As a player, he believed in the values that Steve Waugh embodied. It was all about love for the game and for the land Down Under. For years, he was the designated song-bearer after a victory and was known as someone who loved spending long hours in the dressing room in company of his peers.
As a coach, Langer is no different. At Western Australia, he ensured the players were aware of the emblem of the state in the west. During his first induction as a coach, he told the WA players about how the men from the west had achieved glory and respect from the eastern states.
Langer is a great motivator to those who are prepared to listen and want to wear their heart on their sleeves. A nine-year-old Cameron Bancroft tells a tale on how at a Western Australia training camp, he had worn a Brett Lee jersey, and so offended was Langer that he quickly rushed inside and handed the youngster a signed Western Australian shirt. The incident told a tale about Langer's willingness to go out of his way to instill pride in his team.
Having successfully resurrected Western Australia, Langer faces the challenge of restoring the pride of the cricketing public of Australia. He will not tolerate any non-sense, but at the same time ensure no lines are crossed in the heat of the battle. Langer will know that tarnishing the image of the nation will be unacceptable.
There are bound to be plenty of pep talks, motivational speeches and rigorous training programs along with a bit of homework to understand the culture of Australia. Langer will create the camaraderie witnessed in tightly-knitted teams that resemble preparing for a battle. The challenge for Langer is to ensure the cost of winning the battle should not lead to a cancer-like culture.
Players such as Steve Smith or even Ricky Ponting became so obsessed with winning that at times the line was crossed. Langer, in all probability, guarantee the determination to win remains, but there will be times the desperation will need to be controlled.
An advocate of meditation and mental toughness, Langer is sure to apply such ideologies within the team to ensure when there is drive to push that ‘line’ the mind is strong enough to control the body.
With time, Langer would have learnt that not all of his methods will bring the best out of each player. Rules need to be tinkered and processes need to be amended for different individuals. Langer’s record at Western Australia seems to indicate he has been able to strike a good bond between the different characters within a team.
Importantly, Langer believes in hardwork and time. He is known to be a hands-on coach in terms of the mental side of the game. Technically, he might not be astute as a Ponting or a Hussey, but at international cricket it is what is between the ears that make the difference.
However, there will be instances when Langer will need to prove his worth on the technical sides of the game. As a coach, he seems to be the man who can push the player to find solutions from within. Importantly, he has coached across all formats and had success in the T20 game for a long time now.
The challenge of bridging the new generation of fearless strokemakers and the philosophies of Test cricket is something he will relish. Above all, he will use all his experience and mental approaches to ensure that representing Australia is much more than cricket. For now, Langer is the only choice.