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Cummins: 'Don't think Langer should be surprised' with players asking for coaching change

Captain defends players saying the departed coach leaves a 'significant legacy' but they need a 'new style of coaching'

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Pat Cummins and Justin Langer hug after Australia's MCG win, Australia vs England, 3rd Test, Melbourne, 3rd day, December 28, 2021

Pat Cummins and Justin Langer hug after Australia's MCG win  •  AFP/Getty Images

Australia Test captain Pat Cummins says Justin Langer should not be surprised that the players asked for a coaching change when they were consulted on his contract extension.
Cummins spoke on Wednesday for the first time since Langer resigned on Saturday after declining a six-month contract extension, just an hour after releasing a strong statement that defended his and the players' role in Langer's exit after four years as coach.
Cummins confirmed that the players had felt it was time for a change of voice on the back of some of the feedback that had been provided to Langer in several reviews following a turbulent 12 months that included a home Test series loss to India and two away T20I series losses to West Indies and Bangladesh prior to the T20 World Cup and Ashes triumphs.
"I don't think he should be surprised," Cummins said. "I think two years of evaluations in our environment at Cricket Australia, it's probably pretty boring, but we get 360 [degree] reviews all the time. So we get our strengths and weaknesses poked, prodded, always trying to learn. I think it's become more public probably in the last week or two, but I don't think there are any big surprises.
"I think he tweaked and changed a lot and was brilliant. He made some really big changes and deserves a lot of credit for that. I guess the question, after the success last couple of months became, do we think it's sustainable? And, again, it's probably a matter of varying opinions. But we thought it's the right time to make a change."
Cummins gave an insight into the type of environment that the players had asked for during those review sessions with Langer last year.
"We had a couple of instances where we wanted to really flesh out our team culture and what we think is important and what we think is going to get the best out of our group," Cummins said. "A few of those things that came out really strongly was owning your own space, and having a really calm, consistent, composed environment in which to operate."
Cummins said he had been in contact with Langer in recent days and that the players still cared for him and were appreciative of his guidance over a four-year period.
"We've had a few messages over the last few days, and we're all good," Cummins said. "From my viewpoint, I've got huge respect for the man and I love what he's done. I owe him a lot. He's been brilliant, not only for the team but for me individually. He's given me a lot of opportunities, backed me in a lot. So yeah, that's probably more or less what I passed on. We're all good. And hopefully, we can catch up soon and talk about it. He's someone I'm sure in the future I'll keep leaning on."
A raft of former players, many of whom are Langer's former team-mates have criticised Cummins for his role in the saga after Langer noted in his resignation letter that media reports had suggested "several senior players and a couple of support staff" did not support him continuing on as coach and that he accepted that decision.
Former Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson wrote in a column for the West Australian newspaper that Cummins had failed his first big test as captain and described his media performances prior to Langer's resignation as gutless.
Cummins was diplomatic in his response to Johnson and the criticism in general.
"He's just standing up for his mate," Cummins said. "I absolutely disagree with what he said. No, he hasn't reached out. But that's fine.
"I haven't really had much [criticism] before so it's actually been good to get it out of the way early in the captaincy. I knew when I took on the job it was going to come with added scrutiny and so the last week has been good to know that I'll cop it, but I'm absolutely fine with it. I know a lot of it's come from the right place. We all want to do what's best for Australian cricket.
"I think the reality of some of those comments as well, is the Aussie cricket team is full of cricket players. It's our job and in fairness, the 11 players, they're the guys who are out there on the field so absolutely I think it's fair that we get a say."
Cummins was far more forthright in his written statement earlier in the day that was issued by Cricket Australia just over an hour prior to his press conference.
"For good reason, I haven't made public comment before today," Cummins said in the statement. "To speak about a decision, which was yet to be made and which is for Cricket Australia to make, would have put Cricket Australia and the team in an impossible position. I'd never do that. I believe in respecting the sanctity of the change room and proper process.
"Now that a decision has been made by Justin to resign and given his own public comments and others by Cricket Australia, I can provide some clarity.
"To all past players, I want to say this: Just as you have always stuck up for your mates, I'm sticking up for mine."
Pat Cummins
"Justin has acknowledged that his style was intense. And it was. He has apologised to players and staff for his intensity. I think the apology was unnecessary. Because the players were ok with JL's intensity. It came from a good place - his fierce love of Australia and the baggy green - something which has served Australian cricket well for three decades.
Cummins went on to explain why he had requested to CA that the players wanted a fresh voice as coach moving forward.
"We have been very well schooled in how to play cricket in the right way - in the correct Australian way. We understand the importance of always playing to the highest ethical standards. And the players need no motivation as I've never played with more motivated cricketers. To be better players for Australia, from this solid foundation, we need a new style of coaching and skill set.
"CA have made a brave call to transition, given the team has been winning. Finally, we are custodians of cricket, with one very big thing in common: our first duty is to Australian cricket, which is bigger than any one of us. I take this responsibility seriously. I live and breathe it. We also have a duty to our mates. Many former players have reached out to me and silently offered me their advice which is welcome.
"Some others have spoken in the media - which is also welcome and comes from a love of the game and their support of a mate. To all past players, I want to say this: Just as you have always stuck up for your mates, I'm sticking up for mine."

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo