The Australian cricket team of the late 1990s and a good part of the 2000s is highly recognised as one of the strongest and mightiest cricket teams of all time. Under the magnetic leadership of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, the Australian team won three back-to-back ODI World Cups between 1999 and 2007. Moreover, they were an equally dominant brigade in Tests and stayed at the top of ICC team rankings during the period.
As per recent comments made by active Australian coach Justin Langer, apparently, making it to the playing XI of that indomitable squadron was more difficult than it seemed as he opens up about his own experience of facing the axe.
Former opening batsman Justin Langer was one of the pillars of the invincible Australian Test battalion under the leadership of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting. In a recent podcast with former all-rounder Shane Watson on Lessons Learnt with the Greats, the left-handed batsman talked about the time when he was dropped from the team during the Ashes 2001 series in England. He said that he was dropped at the expense of Damien Martyn, who was going great guns for Australia in ODI cricket.
According to Justin Langer, he was delivered the news two days prior to the opening Ashes Test by his “hero” and then captain Steve Waugh. Langer admitted to being emotional upon hearing the news at the time and stated that he did not know whether to “cry” on Waugh’s shoulders or “punch him out”.
The Australian coach further said that he resorted to playing practice matches in England for the next few weeks in a bid to make a return into the Ashes line-up. While playing alongside his then teammate Adam Gilchrist in one of the matches against Sussex, he got the news that there was an opening in the Australian playing XI for the fourth Test as captain Steve Waugh had ruled himself out due to an injury. Justin Langer said that his aim was to perform well and score some runs against Sussex, but he failed to do so and his teammate Adam Gilchrist was given a nod to become Waugh’s replacement instead.
In Langer’s own words, he walked up to Gilchrist after the practice match and grabbed him by the neck and chucked him up against the wall to say ‘Look what you blokes have done to me!’"
Justin Langer eventually made a glorious return to the Australian cricket team for the fifth Test at The Oval, London. Upon his return, he scored an imperial 102* which yielded an innings victory and a 4-1 Ashes triumph for his side. The match is also remembered for Shane Warne’s 11-wicket match-haul and it marked Steve Waugh’s final Test appearance in England.
Justin Langer also enjoyed a decorated career for Australia that spanned 14 years (1993 to 2007). He along with dynamic batsman Matthew Hayden formed a destructive opening pair for his national side during their playing days. In all, Langer played 105 Tests through which he stockpiled 7,696 runs with 23 centuries and 30 half-centuries. He is currently serving his four-year coaching contract for Australia in a term that began in May 2018.