The Ashes 2010-11 November 17, 2010

Langer keeps faith in Hussey and North

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Justin Langer believes Marcus North and Michael Hussey will make it through the Ashes as long as they stay focused and ignore the mountain of distractions. Langer, Australia's batting coach, was under similar pressure for his spot before the 2006-07 campaign and expects the struggling pair to be on duty at the Gabba next week.

The Australian contenders are having a difficult time securing their places ahead of the series, with Hussey (0), North (17), Usman Khawaja (13) and Callum Ferguson (7) failing in their various matches on Wednesday. However, Langer retains faith in the battling incumbents.

"Marcus North has got five hundreds in 19 Tests," Langer told ESPNcricinfo. "Mike Hussey basically averages 50 in Test cricket. They are very, very good players. What they have to do is eliminate the distraction of what has happened in the past and concentrate on getting balance in their stance and being ready for the first ball.

"You don't lose your talent and your ability. Sometimes because of distractions you might lose a little bit of focus. They're good enough and been around long enough."

Langer said the same approach is necessary for Ricky Ponting if he is to reach his peak against England. "Hussey and Ponting are absolute warriors of Australian cricket," Langer said. "I'm very confident that if they get their focus right they'll be fine and they're a very important part of us winning back the Ashes."

Australia named a huge 17-man squad on Monday for the opening Test, with the influx of new talent adding to the distractions of the under-pressure senior players. The outfit will be trimmed over the weekend and Langer understands what it's like to be a target before a major series.

"In 2006-07 there was a lot of conjecture about my place because Phil Jaques was doing well," he said. "The day that they announced the 12 players to be selected and I knew that I was in that side, the whole world was off my shoulders and then I could just focus and concentrate on playing the first Test."

In his new book Australia You Little Beauty - the English edition is called Keeping My Head - Langer writes about the moments in the 2005 Ashes when the pressure became too much.

The breaking point arrived during the third Test at Old Trafford when Langer, who was not out on the fourth evening, went back to the team hotel and was taunted by a couple of Barmy Army supporters. He almost punched one of them. "The pressure of the Ashes has built to bursting point," he wrote of the day.

Langer said the players in this series could escape those sorts of troughs by ignoring the distractions. "Mental toughness is being able to concentrate on what's important," he said. "It sounds simple, but it's the whole essence of peak performance.

"There are going to be so many distractions: media hype, all the stuff in public, worrying about winning or not winning the Ashes, thoughts about personal form, what's happened in the last week or two, thinking about their position in the side. All those things are pure and simple distractions. All that really matters is the contest between bat and ball and the psyches of each player on Thursday the 25th at the Gabba."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • SettingSun on November 19, 2010, 12:27 GMT

    @popcorn - even your attempts at looking optimistic and cocky are looking old and tired - much like your team!

  • dummy4fb on November 18, 2010, 17:43 GMT

    If aussies are gonna win the ashes they need Hussey and northy to be in the team 1 performance of callum ferguson in the shield doesnt prove he will have a good series hemay also have ups and down in his cricketing life .same thing now hussey is a little bit tensed he has a lot of passion for this game no one else would have that so huss u are the writ man by whom aussies will win

  • seagrip on November 18, 2010, 17:08 GMT

    Interesting comparison of a few of australia's likely bowlers (Hilf and Siddle) in first class cricket: Siddle vs Clint McKay, Batting: Clint McKay wins - 4 runs per innings better over career, Bowling: Clint McKay wins - 2.35 runs per wicket better over career. Hilfenahus vs Andrew McDonald, Batting: Andrew McDonald wins - 28 per innings better over career, Bowling: Andrew McDonald wins - 0.05 runs per wicket better over career. You could perform equally alarming comparisons against the likes of Callum Ferguson in the squad ahead of Phil Hughes/Jacques. And Marcus North too!! Get the selectors OUT!

  • popcorn on November 18, 2010, 12:33 GMT

    That's the spirit, Alfie! All you guys who want Hussey and Noth out of the Test side, read Justin Langer's piece. And he knows - he's been in those situations, and has performed! So have Huss and Northy! Australia is a solid side and will win the Ashes 4 nil or 3 nil.

  • Timsam on November 18, 2010, 10:47 GMT

    An Aussie team selected on form might look something like this: 1. Watson 2. Katich 3. Ponting 4.Clarke 5.North 6. McDonald 7. Haddin 8. Smith 9. Johnson 10. Hlifenhaus 11. Bollinger

    A reflection that the batting is currently brittle and the fourth bowling option is a problem. North is retained on the basis of his good record against England, as well as short burst variety with Smith, who is not a strike bowler yet, but could be a counter-attack in the batting stakes if, as will happen, there is a collapse. McDonald is scoring runs and can tie up an end with his medium pace.

    I agree that Huss, legend that he's been in the past, doesn't look like making a score in the longer form of cricket.

  • dummy4fb on November 18, 2010, 8:01 GMT

    Martin Love and Brad Hodge all scored centuries before being axed!!.. seems they weren't quite the right fit to be in the squad!...

  • Benkl on November 18, 2010, 6:36 GMT

    Husseys form is strange ... he is still batting well in one day which is harder on the eye and his recent test form is not that bad a few centuries and his recent form will be over 50 . Also will Clarke last he seems to be performing worse and worse ?

    You can forget Jaques and Warner vs the english attack so what does that leave ? Id swap North for White and give Hauritz spot to Harris . Brisbane will be a green deck and we should take 4 fast bowlers to see who to take for the rest ( when we bring back Hauritz from 12th man). Johnson is always a risk so IMHO you take Johnson or a spinner not both , time and time again we have had 2 very tired bowlers due to Johnson being to wayward.

  • Bigbanger666 on November 18, 2010, 0:10 GMT

    Memo Justin: Not scoring any runs is not a distraction its a deal breaker. Get these guys out now. They haven't been in Aus best 11 for 18 months.

  • NewYorkCricket on November 17, 2010, 22:32 GMT

    Why is Pil Jaques not in the team? He scored a century in the last test he played and averages over 45?

  • David47 on November 17, 2010, 21:02 GMT

    No Justin - avoiding destructions is the key to Ashes success - something our batsmen haven't done in the games currently being played.

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