Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - 'His life has changed' - Langer on visiting 'shattered' Paine. Langer didn't rule out the possibility of Paine's return to the Test fold.
Langer didn't rule out the possibility of Paine's return to the Test fold.
It was interesting that the first time Justin Langer mentioned Tim Paine on Saturday, he referred to him as one of his “really close friends”. It was apt too. For, the few minutes he spent answering questions about Paine, it never sounded like the head coach of a team taking about a fallen captain.
There was too much real emotion there. There was real hurt there. And you could sense that Langer had gone to Hobart earlier in the week to check on his “close friend” and not simply visit a work colleague who'd seen his world come crumbling down.
And it sounded like it too when Langer provided a bit of insight into how Paine was doing and what he felt the gloveman's future could be. Again, it's easy to jump on Langer and try to make light of what at times sounded like his defence of the former Test skipper. But even if this was Langer speaking to the press in a professional capacity, it was still Langer talking about someone who he does clearly consider a dear friend and someone whose “life has changed” forever.
“I'm very sad for what's happened. He and I have been through a journey like we have with all this group. He's one of the best people I have met in cricket, so it was nice to go down and see him. He's obviously shattered with what's happened. Because he's been such an exemplary figure in Australian cricket for the last four years,” said Langer.
The head coach did admit to have heard about the Paine incident from the man himself a few years ago, soon after he'd taken over the reins to be precise. And that he wasn't aware of an investigation but now understood the whole extent of the situation.
“I heard about it, I think I was getting on a bus on the way to England about an incident. Because Painey told me about it. That was nearly four years ago. And literally the first I heard about it after that was the day or two days before he resigned. So, I had no idea about an investigation. I didn't know anything about that. I obviously know deeply the full story now and the context of it all. But I certainly didn't know that before. And again, what other people make of it again is completely out of my control.,” he said.
The Paine episode has come on the back of a challenging year for Australian cricket and Langer. It was only a few months ago that the head coach seemed to be in the midst of a battle for trust with some of his players. This was on the back of a difficult 2020-21 summer where they lost a home Test series to India, twice in three years. Things seemed to be turning in the right direction for both the team and Langer with the incredible maiden T20 WC triumph. But then came the biggest blow to the system. Through it all, Langer revealed to have grown as a person and felt like his team had as well.
“I'm growing all the time. No doubt about that. It's a tough business, I've been in it for 30 years and you learn to grow and evolve. You're always under the spotlight.”
He also took a moment to reflect on the society we live in and how in his opinion it was unforgiving when it came to anyone in the “spotlight” slipping up or making a wrong step.
“We live in a world of perfectionism, don't we? We're a very judgmental society. And as I said at my very first press conference, I was asked about Steve Smith and David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, there's not one person who's asking questions … or who is listening to this who hasn't made a mistake in their life. There's not a single person. And our captain, one of the best, made a mistake and is paying a heavy price for it. I continually see in this job, and I see in this society we live in, is it can be brutal. You learn your lessons, but we live in an unforgiving society and that's a real shame.”
There's been understandably a lot of talk about the impact that the Paine incident might have on Australia's morale going into the Ashes. But Langer was quick to dismiss any suggestion that it would. He instead spoke about how his team had made a commitment to stay “mission focused” like they had at the World Cup.
“Not in this Test match. Not for this series. We made a commitment probably six months ago to be very mission focused and to have real clarity with everyone's roles in the team. Whether it's the players and the staff, very mission focused on the World Cup and in the Ashes. The World Cup has been accomplished and there's distractions then. But if you stay mission focused, then all those distractions, you haven't got time to be focused on anything else except winning. We done that in the World Cup. We'll do it in the Ashes.”
Langer also hinted that the players might then decide to catch up with their former captain and “keep paying him the respect he deserves”.
Interestingly then, Langer also didn't rule out the possibility of the 37-year-old wicket-keeper making a return to the Test squad, even if his age and a lot of other factors might not aid that suggestion. And here, he sounded more like the coach who's seen it all in cricket.
“He loves cricket. He absolutely loves cricket. And he's 37. He is a fit as any athlete, certainly in our squad. He looks after himself so well. He's very focused. So who knows. His No.1 priority at the moment is family as you can imagine, and that's how it should be. I'm not sure we've seen the end of him. But we'll wait and see. That'll be his decision.”