Allan Border medal winner Steve Smith does not expect Australia to adopt a two-coach model anytime soon, saying Justin Langer has done a fantastic job and has his full support.
The aftermath of Australia’s Test series loss to India has been dominated by rumblings about Langer’s intense style and player discontent. It has reignited discussion about whether Langer is under the pump because he is being asked to do a pressure-laden job that should ideally be shared by two people.
Cricket Australia considered appointing two coaches after the tearful resignation of Darren Lehmann, who regularly pondered the sustainability of his post given its unique strain and stress.
But CA ultimately decided one man should lead a much-needed cultural revamp after the sandpaper saga, backing Langer to handle the burden while hiring Ricky Ponting and other freelance consultants for various series.
Should CA’s board decide to embrace a split of Langer’s portfolio, the most likely scenario would involve Andrew McDonald stepping up as coach of the Twenty20 side.
Langer is sitting out this month’s T20 tour of New Zealand, when his right-hand man McDonald will coach Australia, but there is no suggestion at this stage that a permanent change could be on the cards.
Smith, speaking two days after Marnus Labuschagne declared his “love” for Langer, said he cannot see it happening.
“That kind of thing has been floated for a while, for different formats and teams ... around the world, not just in Australia,” Smith said after winning his third Allan Border medal.
“It would be interesting. Justin has my full support at the moment. He’s doing a terrific job and he has done for a few years. I can’t see it changing anytime soon.”
Smith, asked directly whether he wants Langer to be in charge for next summer’s Ashes, was emphatic.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Since I’ve been back [from the year-long suspension], he’s done a great job. He always wants to get better and that’s all you can ask of anyone.
“Of course there’s always things you can get better at. One thing that hasn’t been spoken about a lot is how tough a job it is to coach an international team, particularly given we’ve been in bubbles for long periods of time.”
Usman Khawaja’s comment that players were “walking on eggshells” around Langer – and the coach’s far-from-thrilled response – was a big talking point of Amazon’s documentary, The Test.
Smith noted that Langer genuinely wants feedback from his players. “That’s really important as a coach,” he said. “Sometimes it can be difficult. He’s great around the group.”
He played a straight bat to the latest question about his potential return to the captaincy. “It’s not in my hands, it’s with the selectors and the board,” he said. “As I’ve said previously, Tim [Paine] and Finchy [Aaron Finch] are both doing terrific jobs.”
Smith pipped Pat Cummins in the Allan Border medal voting, while Beth Mooney’s brilliant T20 World Cup was recognised with the Belinda Clark award.
Smith and Mooney were the big winners on a socially distant night of nights for Cricket Australia.
Smith‘s dominant ODI series against India, during which he scored a pair of 62-ball centuries, helped him join David Warner as a three-time winner of the Allan Border medal.
Smith polled 126 votes to finish above Cummins (117) and white-ball skipper Aaron Finch (97) on the leaderboard.
It came a year after Warner topped the count then choked back tears as he thanked family for their support in the aftermath of the Cape Town cheating scandal.
Mooney, the world’s top-ranked T20 batter, scored a record-breaking 259 runs at 64.75 to be named player of the tournament during Australia’s T20 World Cup triumph.
The 27-year-old now formally stands alongside Ellyse Perry, Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy – who had topped the leaderboard during the previous seven Belinda Clark award counts – as a genuine superstar.
Mooney polled 60 votes to edge Lanning (58) and Georgia Wareham (50). She also took home the women’s T20 player of the year, while Rachael Haynes was named ODI player of the year.
Smith (ODI player of the year), Cummins (Test player of the year) and Ashton Agar (T20 player of the year) collected the other men’s gongs, while Josh Lalor won the community impact award for his part in the Reflect Forward campaign.