ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2020
Langer searches for silver lining amid cricket shut down
Australia’s coach finds positives during global uncertainty as he addresses the T20 World Cup and the short-term future of young allrounder Cameron Green
26 March 2020, 05:28 PM AEST
Amid the apocalyptic landscape of frightened communities and floundering economies, Australia men's team coach Justin Langer is searching for threads of positivity among the heaviness blanketing life across the globe.
And Langer, who's seen three of his daughters lose their jobs as a result of the COVID19 fall-out, points to the enforced break his players are currently undertaking as a "silver lining" given many were showing signs of mental and physical exhaustion as last summer neared its end.
As a serving board member of West Coast Eagles in the Australian Football League, whose season was postponed this month after the completion of one round, Langer is conscious of and empathetic to those sporting codes that have been drastically affected.
However, having witnessed the toll taken on the men's team after an unprecedented 12 months that included a World Cup and Ashes campaign in the UK plus a hectic home schedule, he concedes a number of his players were already eyeing a prospective lay-off before it became an enforced hiatus.
"From a personal point of view, I'm trying to encourage our players to find some silver lining out of it," Langer said in a video-conference interview from home in Perth today.
"What I mean by that is we're at the back end of our season, and if we can use it as effectively as possible to give ourselves a physical and mental break, it's very important.
"This is like nirvana in that we're home with our families, we sleep in our own beds, we eat home-cooked dinners and we can still work in one degree or another from home.
"We identified in South Africa (during the recent limited-overs tour) that a number of our players were physically and mentally exhausted.
"We had all winter with the World Cup and the Ashes then into our summer … and some of them came straight from the IPL to the World Cup.
"The point is, it gives them a really good opportunity to recharge and we're looking at scenarios to make sure we'll be ready for whatever comes up."
In a pre-pandemic world, the national men's team would currently be in the midst of a three-match T20 series in New Zealand while, at home, the Marsh Sheffield Shield final would have been scheduled to begin tomorrow (March 27).
But the social isolation measures and travel restrictions applied to try and combat the coronavirus's global spread means cricket's leading men's and women's players worldwide are instead confined to home, with no likelihood that competitive sport will resume any time soon.
That would put paid to the Indian Premier League (currently postponed until April 15 with India having recently invoked a three-week nationwide lockdown), while doubts also remain over Australia's proposed Test tour to Bangladesh (scheduled for June) and subsequent ODI campaign in the UK.
Also in limbo is a proposed limited-overs series against Zimbabwe that would likely have been staged in Australia's top end in August, as well as the one-off Test match against Afghanistan and potentially the ICC's men's T20 World Cup which was to have kicked-off the 2020-21 home summer.
Despite the uncertainty over when and how cricket might resume some sort of normality, Langer remains in regular contact with his players and holds no doubt they will observe ongoing fitness and training regimes while in isolation and be ready to resume playing when restrictions are lifted.
"I'll be very, very surprised if all our guys aren't working very hard," he said.
"Part of their lifestyle now, as professional athletes, is they will keep themselves nice and fit.
"We don't have the same formalised opportunities to do that (but) I also look at that really positively.
"Guys have to take responsibility for staying healthy, staying fit, and working out how they will get the balance right between using the time for that and being healthy (mentally) with it.
"We know we can't sit on our hands, we don't know how long this will last for.
"It’s always difficult to stay motivated when you haven’t got a concrete goal in front of you.
"But we have to be ready and organised for what we have - the next few months will go very quickly, and we just have to be ready."
Langer confirmed CA planned to announce its list of centrally contracted players next week, and indicated selectors had all-but agreed on the make-up of the touring party for the two Tests in Bangladesh before that campaign was placed in serious doubt.
The medium-term concern – given potential abandonment of the IPL and other international fixtures planned for mid-year – is the lack of match practice players will receive ahead of the T20 World Cup, which is currently scheduled to begin in Australia in October.
Langer said the cancellation of Australia's planned NZ tour meant younger players who might have shown their wares were denied that opportunity.
But he remains hopeful there will be international matches scheduled between now and the World Cup's planned beginning to assess the candidates.
If international competition remains in hiatus, he indicated that CA would look at "manufacturing" their own matches to ensure the team was adequately prepared.
He described his team's 0-3 ODI series defeat at the hands of South Africa earlier this month as a "blip" that had more to do with the Proteas' performances than Australia's shortcomings and added his outfit continued to head in a "very, very positive direction" after a dominant home summer.
"I think one or two positions in our World Cup side are up for grabs," Langer said.
"It’s a very, very settled team (and) the way our T20 side is playing has been brilliant.
"Our T20 performance - we were undefeated in Australia (during the summer) - is an unbelievable achievement.
"It would have been nice to play some more games, and for some of our younger players to be subjected to the pressure which is definitely going to come in the World Cup.
"World Cups are very hard to win but in terms of selection, I’m not too stressed about it.
"The most important part will be for us to get match practice, and we’ll make sure we either manufacture it or we’ll have plenty of that if this crisis slows down quicker than we think."
While calls for WA allrounder Cameron Green to earn a national cap grow louder, Langer indicated the 20-year-old would likely need to show he can contribute with ball as well as bat before he would be considered for limited-overs selection.
Green was the only batter to score three centuries in the recently completed Shield season, but his bowling was curtailed when he suffered a stress fracture in his back earlier in the summer and he has only recently resumed bowling at practice in Perth.
"He's had a very good year, he's obviously talented, and he's a very, very good all-round player as well," said Langer, who was formerly coach of WA.
"We selected him initially in WA as a bowler, but he's still got a long way to go.
"The number six (batting) position, we know the need to be able to score hundreds in Test cricket, and we know traditionally in one-day cricket we need them to be able to bowl at least 10 overs, or some overs to help with the set-up of our team."