The phone call that saved Langer’s career
Midway through the 2001 Ashes series, Justin Langer called his family and told them he wanted to abandon the tour and retire.
The now-Australia coach was out of runs, confidence and a spot in the team having been axed on first Test eve.
A timely call from captain Steve Waugh, however, would ultimately change his life forever.
“Literally, the week before I opened for the first time with Haydos (Matthew Hayden), I told all my family I’m getting on a plane and leaving, I’m going home,” Langer told ABC’s One Plus One this week.
“I couldn’t make a run, I thought I’d failed, 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 tomorrow.’”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Langer was in 2001 out of runs, confidence and a spot in the team.Source:Getty Images
The then 30-year-old Langer made his first Test century in almost 17 months, scoring 102 off 186 in the fifth Test at the Oval alongside Hayden.
And he never looked back, becoming half of one of Test cricket’s greatest ever opening partnerships until his 2007 retirement.
After being recalled, Langer went on to play 64 more Tests, making another 5119 runs at 49.22, including 16 centuries.
Those are numbers Langer couldn’t even dream of during the English summer of 2001 when he almost gave away the game at a time he “couldn’t have been batting worse”.
Playing in a series of tour matches against English counties, Langer was averaging just 20 from 11 innings
In 2006 book The Ashes Match of My Life, Langer described that he sunk to a new low and blew up at Adam Gilchrist during the slump.
“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.
The rest is history.Source:Getty Images
“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.
Writing about his redeeming Oval century, he added: “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.”
Australia won the 2001 Ashes 4-1. It remains the only time this century that Australia has won the urn outright in England.
Langer went on to win the Ashes twice more; in 2002/03 and 2006/07 which was his farewell series.
Today, he remembers the 2001 Ashes experience as a valuable one that has helped with his coaching career.
“It was another great lesson,” he said. “If you just hang in there, you never know what’s around the corner.”
Originally published asThe phone call that saved Langer’s career
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