Justin Langer bitterly regrets the fact that a dossier he compiled on the England team has been leaked to the press. The document, originally emailed to Australia's coach Tim Nielsen and distributed among the team, was published in the Sunday Telegraph and contained a number of critical insights into England's players and the county system.
"I'm shattered and really upset," Langer told Cricinfo. "That was an email meant only for Tim Nielsen. It was private correspondence and has now found its way into the public domain. It's a joke. Everyone who knows me knows it's not my go to bag anyone. But behind closed doors everyone is going to have an opinion and this was a message that was meant for behind closed doors. It's disappointing."
In the document, Langer wrote that James Anderson was "a bit of a pussy" when placed under pressure, and described the captaincy of Andrew Strauss as "conservative". He also claimed England's players "rarely believe in themselves,'' variously describing them as "flat", "shallow" and "lazy". Michael Vaughan, also writing in the Sunday Telegraph, concurred with many of Langer's conclusions.
"If I had have known that this would end up in the public domain I would have put things differently," Langer said. "I definitely wouldn't have used a word like pussy, but it was only to describe James Anderson's body language. If you read it all the way through, you would see that a lot of what I said about guys like Anderson, Strauss and Bopara was complimentary. They're excellent players, and I was just trying to offer up a few ideas as to how Australia might get under their skins."
Although Langer did state that Anderson was "hugely improved" as a cricketer, and that Strauss was "a very solid character and good bloke", he also said that he expected a negative reaction from some quarters after the publication of his comments, particularly seeing as he currently lives in England while acting as Somerset's captain. "I guess it will [make life harder in England]," he said. "I just spoke to Tim and he was disappointed that it came out like this. But I'm the one who has got to live here. What backlash there is, I guess time will tell."
Both Strauss and Ricky Ponting downplayed the significance of the dossier. "We're not in the habit of reading the press as a general rule, so I don't think we're going to change that right now," Strauss said. "As a team you're always looking for outside people to give you a view on the players you're playing against. The Aussies have obviously got him to do that. It's not of great interest to do that. When you cross that white line anything that's written on paper is pretty irrelevant.
"If you look at the cricket we've played over the last nine months or so I would [dispute Langer's dossier] and it's certainly not something we want to see from an England team. If that's something that's happened in the past it's something we intend to iron out. I think there's a lot of strength or character in the side and we're going to need it next week. It's as simple as that."
Ponting confirmed his squad had read Langer's email, but denied it had been a central element to their plan-making ahead of the Ashes series. "I've played as much against these guys as Justin has so I pretty much knew a lot of the personalities and the way a lot of the guys play," Ponting said.
"I'll admit I got given a copy of it and I had a brief read through it all, but I knew most of it anyway. It was probably more for the younger guys in the group to get a bit of a feel for some of their players. I'm sure they all read every single word of the document, but that was it. We haven't sat down in meetings after that and talked about it."