…Former Test opener discusses how close he came to retirement during rollercoaster Ashes tour of England in 2001
JUSTIN Langer has opened up on one of the lowest points of his playing career, detailing how he
confided in family members that he wanted to abandon Australia’s 2001 Ashes tour in order to fly
home and retire.
Langer has often referred to the campaign in England 19 years ago as a turning point of his career,
which provided valuable lessons for him as both a player and now a coach.
Having been dropped from Australia’s side on the eve of the first Test, the left-hander was handed a
shock recall for the series finale at The Oval, where he scored the first of his 16 centuries as an opener
alongside long-time batting partner, Matthew Hayden.
But having lost both form and confidence following his axing early in the campaign – he hit his lowest ebb when he yelled at
long-time teammate Adam Gilchrist after his dismissal during a tour match – Langer said he had been preparing to give up on
international cricket altogether.
Before the shock recall came at the age of 30, and his career changed forever.
“Literally, the week before I opened for the first time with Haydos (at The Oval), I told all my family I’m getting on a plane
and leaving (and) I’m going home,” the current Australia men’s team’s coach told the ABC’s One Plus One program this week.
“I couldn’t make a run, I thought I’d failed (and) I’d never play for Australia again. I’d been dropped at the start of the series
when I thought I was going to play.
“My wife had flown over because I was going to retire the week before.
“I was so down in the dumps … and out of nowhere, Steve Waugh rings me and says; ‘you’re going to open the batting
Langer had averaged just 20 from 11 innings on that tour before the final Test – he says he “couldn’t have been batting
worse” – but he turned his career around with a score of 102no at The Oval, starting a run of 65 Tests as an opener
where he would average more than 48 with the bat.
And he says the wisdom he gained from that roller-coaster tour has been invaluable his coaching career.
“It was another great lesson,” he said. “If you just hang in there, you never know what’s around the corner.”
In 2006, Langer detailed the lowest point of the 2001 tour in the book The Ashes Match of My Life, describing the moment he
took out his frustration on Gilchrist, his national and state teammate.
“I hit rock-bottom when I was out for two against Sussex at Hove,” he wrote.
“I walked off the ground and shouted at our stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist, ‘Look what you guys have done to me!’. I
really spat the dummy. I was sick of being the easy guy to drop.
“That night I sat in the bar of the Grand Hotel on the Brighton seafront with Gilly and our coach John Buchanan. I don’t
normally drink much, but for four hours I knocked back the Budweisers as I spewed out all the emotions that had been
simmering away since I was dropped. I told them exactly how I felt.
“Anger had been stopping me make runs, so I had to change.
“(After reaching a century at The Oval) I remember looking up at our balcony with clenched teeth and an expression of
‘I told you so’ all over my face. I had proven to the guys who had dropped me and to myself, I could still play.”