Australia head coach Justin Langer reveals Ben Stokes’ Ashes heroics in 2019 still give him “nightmares”; Langer backs Pat Cummins to succeed as captain, saying he has wealth of experienced players to help him out against England
Last Updated: 04/12/21 7:24am
Justin Langer feels Tim Paine could return to Test cricket in the future despite his resignation as Australia captain following a sexting scandal.
Paine, 37, stepped down as skipper following the revelations last month and is currently taking a break from the game to manage his mental health.
Alex Carey will keep wicket for Australia in at least the first two Ashes Tests, with the series starting in Brisbane on Wednesday.
Australia head coach Langer said of Paine: “When I saw him he’s obviously shattered with what’s happened because he’s been such an exemplary figure in Australian cricket, for the last four years particularly. His life’s changed, obviously.
“He absolutely loves cricket. He’s 37 and he is as fit as any athlete, certainly in our squad and we’ve got some fit athletes here. He looks after himself so well, he’s very focused so who knows if he will return.
“His number one priority at the moment is his family, as you can imagine, and that’s how it should be. But I’m not sure we’ve seen the end of him. We’ll wait and see, but that will be his decision.”
Australia – Ashes holders after retaining the urn with a 2-2 draw in England in 2019 – will have Pat Cummins as skipper during this winter’s series.
“Pat will get all the golden nuggets [of data] and he’s got a lot of support around him,” said Langer.
“Steve Smith’s the formal vice-captain, David Warner’s got as good a cricket brain as is in the game.
“[Pat’s] got his three best mates there, the bowlers, who will have a view on it. Alex Carey has been a captain before, he’s behind the stumps.
“He’ll be fine strategically, I think. It will be just maintaining the balance with his bowling load and then captaining and all the other commitments that come with that. We’ll keep an eye on that.”
Langer also said he still has “nightmares” about “superstar of the game” Ben Stokes’ Ashes heroics at Headingley in 2019.
In the Amazon documentary ‘The Test’, Langer was captured furiously kicking a bin during Stokes’ remarkable 135 in the third Test at Leeds two years ago.
Stokes’ innings steered England to a one-wicket win in that memorable match and Langer is delighted the all-rounder – who also bowled a tireless spell on day three of the 2019 Headingley Test – will be involved this year.
“He’s a great cricketer, no doubt about that. I still have nightmares about his innings in that third Test,” Langer said of Stokes, who has returned to cricket after a time away prioritising his mental wellbeing and healing a finger injury.
“I probably have more nightmares about his spell on day three of that game. He’s an unbelievable athlete and a great competitor.”
“It’s great for the game of cricket that Ben Stokes is playing Ashes cricket. We all love it as an Australian summer and it probably wouldn’t be the same without the best players playing.
“It’s nice to see and hopefully his health is good. We welcome him here because he is one of the superstars of the game.”
The hardest part of the job is selecting an Australian Test XI. For the first two years I took it quite personally, because you can’t win. There’s 20 million Australians with an opinion on the Test team.
Langer said Australia are “pretty settled” on who will be in their XI for the first Test but that they would “leave a few secrets” for England.
He added: “A lot of work goes in, there’s a lot of data now, a lot of discussion, a lot of cricket wisdom around. “When it comes to the XI, I’m not being a smart Alec, but we’re not going to give away all our secrets.
“We’re pretty settled on who the XI will be, but it’s all part of the theatre and drama heading up to the first Test.
“You guys can keep guessing, the people in the pubs can keep guessing, the people watching cricket can keep guessing.”