Men's Ashes 2021-22
Langer has 'done everything asked of him': Ponting
Ex-Test captain insists player input into coaching should be limited and warned against splitting roles as he voices strong support for Justin Langer's contract renewal
18 January 2022, 06:20 PM AEST
Ricky Ponting believes Cricket Australia (CA) has no choice but to renew Justin Langer's contract to lead the national men's team and warned against giving players too much say in a post-Ashes appraisal of the coaching structure.
Following intense scrutiny around his position at various points last year, Langer has achieved the T20 World Cup-Ashes double after taking a more hands-off approach to the job in recent months.
However, the success has not resulted in a firm backing from players or senior figures at CA for Langer to have his contract, which expires later this year, renewed.
High performance boss Ben Oliver has flagged players would be among those consulted in a process to be conducted now the Ashes series is over, with a clearer picture of the coaching landscape expected to emerge before March's Test tour of Pakistan.
Ponting, a close friend and former teammate of Langer's, believes only captains Pat Cummins and Aaron Finch as well as a selection of senior players should have any input into Langer's future.
The former Test skipper also voiced concerns over splitting the coaching jobs into Test and limited-overs roles, suggesting such a move could confuse players who switch between formats.
"I can't see how he's not (offered another contract)," Ponting, speaking to cricket.com.au, said of Langer.
"I know there was a bit of noise created the last couple of weeks and Cricket Australia giving no assurances to him continuing on.
"I can't see how Justin can't go on. The way that I would equate it is if Justin is not to be offered another deal on the back of the best coaching year of his life, that's like (Ashes player-of-the-series) Travis Head not getting offered a contract next year.
"(The input of) a couple of senior players would be enough. I don't see why a fringe player (should get a say). I don't understand why they'd even be asking a lot of the players to be honest.
"Pat fine, Finchy fine - the captains of the teams respectively, maybe a couple more of the senior guys - but that's all. I don't think it needs to go any further than that."
Langer took over from Darren Lehmann in 2018 in the aftermath of the Cape Town scandal and was not only tasked with maintaining on-field results but also to rebuild the reputation of a team that was at rock bottom.
Few could argue that he has failed at either.
The 2-2 2019 Ashes series ledger marked Australia's best result on an England tour since 2001, while the 4-0 drubbing on the return leg just completed is another clear tick.
A semi-final appearance at the 2019 ODI World Cup was a major improvement on the side's 50-over performances in the preceding years, while the T20 World Cup victory in October was the men's team's first ever title in the shortest format.
The major blips have been home Test series defeats to India in 2018-19 (admittedly with a weakened team) and 2020-21, the latter prompting reports of dissatisfaction from players about Langer's methods.
Lehmann has urged his successor to go out on a high, telling Fox Sports that he risks burning out if he continues in the job.
But Ponting, whose support for the Western Australian echoes similar calls from Steve Waugh and Shane Warne, insisted Langer's record should dictate that he remains in the job.
"The other thing that they have to keep in the back of their minds - whether it's players, whether it's Cricket Australia - is that sometimes the grass is not always greener," said Ponting.
"What they've been able to do has been pretty remarkable these last four or five months.
"Justin's been asked to change a lot of things about the way that he coached. He's been able to do that. We've all seen how much of a back seat he's taken the last few months compared to beforehand.
"He's got the assistants more heavily involved which is one of the things that apparently needed to change around the group.
"He's done everything that's been asked of him and the results have followed. So if he wants to continue on, I can't see how he doesn't get another two- or three-year contract."
Sydney Thunder coach and former England and NSW mentor Trevor Bayliss has been flagged as a leading contender should Langer not continue in the job.
Another option would be to separate the Test and limited-overs jobs, something that has previously occurred anyway given Test tours have overlapped with limited-overs series. That will take place again should mooted tours of New Zealand (T20) and Pakistan (Test) both go ahead in the coming months.
Ponting, coach of the Delhi Capitals in the Indian Premier League, has maintained he would consider an offer to coach the national T20 side but not at Langer’s expense.
Not that he’s an advocate for splitting the roles in the first place.
"It sounds like a great idea. But there could be some other problems that come with that as well," said Ponting.
"If you've got a white-ball coach, that is one personality, then you switch over the next week to someone that's completely different with the way that they look at the game and view players.
"One thing you would want as a player is continuity. That's what I would have wanted when I was playing. I would have wanted a coach that understood me as a person and understood my technique and what I was doing when I was batting well and what I was doing when I wasn’t batting well.
"If you've got two different sets of eyes looking at that, and critiquing it from week-to-week, then that could present its own set of challenges for a cricket team.
"If there's someone there that can do it and is willing to give up as much time as it takes to fulfill that head coach's role with the Australian cricket team, then I would 100 per cent leave it at that.
"But if it's getting too hard and too challenging, and it's wearing the coaches down to a point where they can't function as well as they need to, then that would be the only time that I would think about splitting the roles."