More than a decade after he walked away from Test cricket and a year before he was expected to step into the role of national coach, Justin Langer will formally replace Darren Lehmann at the helm of a bruised Australia men’s team.
Langer, 47, had been earmarked as Lehmann’s successor when the former coach foreshadowed his tenure would end at the cessation of next year’s dual World Cup/Ashes assignment in the UK.
But the former Test opener, who will oversee the rebirth and rebranding of the national men’s outfit in all three international formats, was fast-tracked into the role following the fall-out from the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa six weeks ago.
As a result of that shame, which tore a sizeable hole in both the personnel and public perception of Australia’s men’s outfit, Langer begins a four-year term later this month ahead of June's ODI and T20I engagement against England in circumstances he could not have imagined when he first flagged his candidacy several years ago.
However, it’s difficult to nominate a better-credentialled figure to take on the role as both an unquestioned technical and tactical coach, and a proven creator of culture as he has proved in more than five years as supremo with the Alcohol. Think Again Western Warriors and Perth Scorchers KFC Big Bash League franchise.
"It is humbling to be appointed as coach of the Australian men's cricket team," Langer said. "I would like to thank the Western Australian Cricket Association and the Perth Scorchers for their support over the past six seasons, and for giving me the opportunity to lead and work with two great teams and many exceptional people.
"I'd like to especially thank my family for being with me on this journey and for supporting me in accepting this position.
"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.
"I'm thoroughly looking forward to working with all players, as we strive for a successful men's team across all formats, with the support and respect of the Australian public."
Langer, who will also sit on the player review panel chaired by Rick McCosker, the details of which were announced earlier this week, was considered most likely to take over after Lehmann announced at an emotional media conference in Johannesburg last month that he would resign as a result of the Cape Town incident, in which sandpaper was used on-field in an attempt to alter the condition of the ball.
Other names that were mentioned as a possible replacement for Lehmann, who rose to the role in 2013 when Mickey Arthur was sacked, were Langer’s ex-teammate (now coach of Sussex in the UK county competition) Jason Gillespie and incumbent assistant coach David Saker.
Langer had previously been linked to the vacant England coaching position before another Australian, ex-New South Wales batter Trevor Bayliss, was appointed in 2015.
His four-year contract will take in two Ashes Series, a World Cup and World T20 tournament.
Prior to taking up coaching in his own right in 2012, Langer spent time as a specialist batting coach with the national men’s outfit in the twilight of his close friend and former Australia teammate Ricky Ponting’s captaincy.
That came after Langer drew the curtain on his decorated 105-match Test career (making him the 10th-most-capped Australia player) and then played out his top-level days with WA and Somerset, which he finished as the most prolific first-class runs-scorer (28,382) his nation has produced.
Since accepting the job to revitalise an ailing WA cricket structure and culture in 2012, the father of four daughters has led his teams to five limited-overs titles - two in the JLT Cup 50-over competition and three in the BBL - and guided them to Sheffield Shield finals in 2013-14 and 2014-15.
Fundamental to that success, which has also seen WA provide a succession of Australia players, is the five-point ‘charter’ that Langer demands adherence to – hard work, honest words and actions, celebration of success, earn respect through deeds and show respect to the game’s heritage.
"We are thrilled to appoint Justin as Bupa Support Team Head Coach of the Australian men's cricket team,” sad Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland.
"Whilst Darren Lehmann was not due to complete his term until next year, we have had a succession plan in place for this role for some time.
"In addition to professional development opportunities, this plan has included several coaches stepping into the head role to relieve Darren at times, and to also provide support roles, including Justin, and forms part of our long running succession planning process.
"The plan has allowed us to consider several worthy candidates, but Justin was the clear standout, particularly based on his recent coaching and player development achievements.
"We firmly believe Justin is the right person to lead this team and have huge confidence in what he will bring to the role.
"As an international cricketer, Justin was a proud and courageous competitor who gave his all for his country. As a coach he has enjoyed success – not only in overseeing strong teams, but also in developing cricketers who are ready to play international cricket for Australia.
"To illustrate this, Western Australia has more nationally-contracted male players than any other state for 2018-19.
"Justin's work ethic, leadership and values are among his strongest attributes – and he is widely respected across the global cricket community."
Prior to today’s announcement, it was speculated that Ponting might be installed as specialist coach for Australia’s T20 team.
That was due to the relentless cross-format travel schedule and impact that the national role would have on Langer’s wife Sue and their family, and which was cited as Langer’s principal misgiving about accepting the gruelling job.
But in confirming that the left-hander, who is also accomplished in martial arts and maintains a much-cherished rose garden at his Perth home, will be installed for Test, ODI and T20 duties it is clear that Langer’s input is seen as essential for the team’s ongoing rejuvenation and rehabilitation.
Details on what involvement Ponting might have with Australia’s T20 team, if any, are yet to be confirmed.
For much of the coming year, Langer will shape a team minus its two best-performed international batters of recent years – ex-captain Steve Smith and his former deputy David Warner, both serving 12-month bans – as well as his aspiring WA talent, Cameron Bancroft (also suspended over the ball tampering case).
Following the limited-overs sojourn in the UK and a scheduled T20 tri-series in Zimbabwe mid-year, Langer and his men will face a couple of daunting Test match challenges.
Later this year, Australia travel to the UAE for two Tests against Pakistan, a reprise of the visit four years ago that saw Michael Clarke’s team thumped 0-2 by an opponent playing in ‘home’ conditions in the Emirates due to security concerns for teams visiting Pakistan.
Immediately after that, Australia hosts the world’s top-ranked Test team India in four Tests that Virat Kohli is already eyeing as an opportunity to make history by leading his nation to their first Test series triumph on Australian soil.