Cricket Australia Items/Blogs/justin-langer/2012/11/21/hard-to-leave

Justin Langer

Langer: Hard to leave

21 November 2012

Taking on the job as the head coach of Western Australian cricket has certainly turned my life upside down over the last two weeks.

Everything has happened so fast that my life feels like it has been running in fast-forward for the last fortnight.  Leaving the Australian changing room on Tuesday night was quite emotional and while men aren’t meant to cry I was definitely holding strong to keep up the tough guy image.

For three years I have been working with the team and while it was hard to leave my friends, the challenge of taking on the Western Australian cricket team was too good an opportunity to pass up.

While I wont be there at the Test match this week I will always be there in spirit whenever the Australian cricket team is involved. 

The Adelaide Test is always a favourite and I am looking forward to watching the arm wrestle continue.

Injuries have plagued Shane Watson throughout his career and since his recent calf problems; discussion has increased about whether he should play as a batsman only. 

It goes without saying that the all round package of Shane Watson, is an invaluable asset for the Australian cricket team. 

The question now though has revolved around whether he should retain his spot, if he is unable to bowl?

There isn’t a team in the world that doesn’t crave a good all rounder.  From club cricket to Test cricket, every team is looking for the player who can add the perfect balance to the team by batting and bowling.

The extraordinary amount of money paid for all-rounders like Dan Christian in the IPL is a sign of this attraction.

The really great all-rounders, regardless of their pay packet, are the ones who are able to hold their position in the team based on one discipline alone. 

In other words, a bowling all rounder like Wasim Akram demanded his spot in the team because of his bowling ability.  He would have been picked as a bowler regardless of whether he could bat or not.  In many ways his batting prowess was a bonus.

On the flipside a batting all rounder like Jacques Kallis is the first chosen in the South African team on his batting alone.  The fact that his bowling record is so good is almost a luxury.

The same applies for Adam Gilchrist or Alec Stewart.  Both were wicket keepers number one, batsman number two.  Alec Stewart would argue against this, fairly, but the point is that he had the ability to demand selection, even if he only performed one of the arts. Having them excel in both disciplines made them incredibly valuable commodities to their teams.  

Recently, debate has surrounded Shane Watson’s ability to play in the Australian cricket team as a batsman only. 

My view is simple.

Shane Watson is definitely in the top six batsmen in Australia at the moment.  Like all batsmen he has areas to improve and he knows better than anyone that he needs to score more hundreds at Test match level, but that aside, he is a superb player.

In terms of power and technique there are few better players in the world than Shane Watson.   It is rare to see a player that is so technically correct hitting the ball as hard as he does.  Like Matty Hayden, his driving down the ground is awesome and his pull shot makes him a nightmare for the opposing bowlers.

Standing at the other end to Matt Hayden was inspiring as I marveled at his power and talent.  Bowl too full and he would smash the ball back past the stumps; drop it a touch short and he would shift his weight onto his back leg and pull the ball fiercely to the fence.

Shane has the same capabilities, and against a pace bowling attack like the South Africans, his game is perfectly suited.

Another attribute of Shane’s batting is that he is able to bat at the top of the order or in the middle of the line-up.  Few batsmen have this capacity, but now that he has played with success as an opener, I believe he could adapt to the middle order somewhere into the future.

Wherever it may be, Australia looks a stronger team with Shane Watson in it.

It goes without saying that Shane will be expected to be 100% fit to be able to bat for a long period of time. I know how meticulous he has been with his rehabilitation and with today's excellent medical and S&C facilities, including the outstanding physiotherapist Alex Kountouris, then I am certain the right decision will be made.

Of course, if Shane Watson is selected, one player will have to miss out.  Unfortunately twelve doesn’t go into eleven, so one of the top order batsmen will have to make way. 

Ed Cowan’s first test hundred ensures he will play in the second Test.  It was a great delight watching Ed jumping for joy at the Gabba last week.  He works so hard and literally leaves no stone unturned in his pursuit of cricketing excellence.  

His refreshing attitude and intellect makes him a popular member of the team and it will be a much-relieved left handed opener who walks to the crease in Adelaide on Thursday or Friday. 

That first Test hundred makes a huge difference.  He now knows for certain that he belongs at that level. 

Davie Warner, the proven match winner, will be hard to ignore but then last week’s debutante Rob Quiney made an impact with his infectious, and obvious, selfless attitude within the team.

Whatever way the selectors decide to go, it is promising seeing the competition increasing within the playing ranks.  No player has a God given right to be selected for Australia, so the greater the competition, and the stronger system we are operating under, the better off we will be in Australian cricket.

The second Test should be an entertaining one on one of the world’s great Test match grounds.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
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