ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP 2019
“Can’t wait for Tuesday. England at Lord’s. World Cup. That is what we are thinking about” – Langer © Getty
Irrespective of how their English summer ended, Justin Langer – the player – entered the English shores with a team boastful of their abilities, willing to nitpick the drawbacks of their opposition and possibly even predict the scoreline, that at best, offers the benefit of a draw due to the unpredictable weather to their opposition. Justin Langer – the coach – has come to England with a team willing to portray modesty, bloat the egos of the Jofra Archers, Jos Buttlers and the Barmy Army. Such is the travesty of the 2019 English summer. Langer wouldn’t be liking this.
But such has been the evolution of the England cricket team over the last four years, and Australia’s trouble in the last 12 months, that for the first time since Langer’s international debut, Australia will be going into a world cup clash against England without being the favourites. If not for Australia’s legacy in the tournament, and a couple of series wins in the last few months, the odds would have been all the more wide between the two sides.
For now, Australia are sitting pretty at the second spot on the points table. They are sitting so pretty that they can make it to the semifinals even if they lose all their three league matches from hereon. But at the same time, mathematical possibilities suggest that only two wins in the next three games will guarantee them of that. The tricky part of this is that, they have won all their games against the weaker sides in the tournament, and lost against India. In their next three games, they have two tough assignments at hand – against the unbeaten New Zealand and favourites England. There is ample reason for them to guard against complacency.
“One thing you will not have to worry about from where we have come from over the last 12 months is the Australian cricket team being complacent. Do not lose one second sleep about it,” Langer assures.
One of the key drawbacks of the Australian side, as viewed before the world cup, was the presence of several one-dimensional consolidators in the middle order. With Marcus Stoinis out for a few games, they were left playing Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh and Alex Carey in the middle order. With David Warner also adopting a conventional approach in the tournament, it further added to the absence of ample power-hitters.
Langer defended the team’s strategy and explained, “We have a gameplan. We just got 381. It has been a long time since Australia got 381. There have been a lot of critics saying we can’t do that. But I have maintained for a long time that if we stick to our gameplan and conditions are right we will be ok. We have done that for the last six months or so and hopefully we will keep doing that.
“What has clicked in the last six months is we have played some great games in India and Dubai. We have had some good games in this tournament without being at our best. We have Davey and Aaron Finch getting big hundreds up front, we have guys in the middle playing well and we have adaptability which is a strength and not a weakness. It is not what has clicked in the last couple of games but over the last six months.
“It is satisfying (to be second on the points table) but everyone knows whatever we do, people will try to pick holes in it. If Ussie had not made runs the other day we would have been smashed but he did and nobody said anything. That is life. That is okay. That is the business we are in.”
He praised Buttler and Archer for their game-changing abilities, but says they have secrets to unleash in the match against them. “We have seen a lot of him (Archer) in the Big Bash. Adam Griffith is his coach at the (Hobart) Hurricanes, so we know a fair bit about Jofra. He is a brilliant athlete. He bowls fast, moves well and we are going to be on our toes for him as well.”
While he did talk up about England’s destructive potential, he is well aware of the tricky situation the hosts find themselves in. Having been surprised by two under-performing teams in the tournament – Pakistan and Sri Lanka – they are left with a situation where they would need at least two wins in their next three games to find themselves placed comfortably in pursuit of a semifinal spot. And up against them are three top sides of this world cup – New Zealand, Australia and India, who have combined to lose only a solitary game so far in the tournament.
However, Langer believes it isn’t the worst situation to be in for England if it is viewed from a different perspective. “You can look at it in two ways. We all have a bit to do. They have their games. They will be tough games but it (the pressure) will be like that in the semifinal as well. They should be welcoming that. If you are nice and battle hardened then you might be weary but you will be ready for the contest. For both teams it is a good thing. We have England, New Zealand and South Africa, teams we have had good contests with. It is a positive for whoever makes the semis, if they are playing tough cricket going into it.”
He is aware of the tough greeting his players are going to get courtesy the Barmy Army, especially David Warner and Steve Smith, but he is trying to not get worked up by that. He had tried to be a peacemaker with the English fans before the tournament and would hope they will become warmer to his team. “That is okay. There is nothing we can do about the crowds or the opposition. We will just go about our business.
“Can’t wait for Tuesday. England at Lord’s. World Cup. That is what we are thinking about. It is that exciting I can’t wait for it. We will work out what happens after that but we can’t wait for Tuesday.”