When Khawaja went to war with ‘intimidating’ Langer
Australia's Test players felt intimidated by Justin Langer and told the coach they were "walking on eggshells" after crumbling against India in the 2018 Boxing Day Test.
Captain Tim Paine told News Corp that Langer's coaching group asked him to seek player feedback after losing a home Test series to India for the first time.
"We hadn't been playing all that well and JL left the room and asked me to run a bit of a chat on what we want from our staff, or what they're doing well and what they can they get better at," Paine said on Tuesday.
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Batsman Usman Khawaja then told Langer in front of the group: "I think the boys are intimidated by you" in an exchange captured in The Test: A new era for Australia's team, an eight-part documentary that premieres on Amazon Prime Video on Thursday (March 12).
Langer asked Khawaja to give it to him "straight up". Khawaja replied the "boys are afraid to say it" before stressing "we didn't play like sh-t" because of those problems.
Langer watched his wife, Sue, break down in tears the next week as tensions rose during the SCG Test.
"(Sue said) 'I just don't like what this is doing to you. You're not smiling'. That was a massive wake up call for me," Langer said.
A fiery exchange between Langer and Khawaja from three months earlier was also captured. Langer told his bowlers to "get them out and let them know" in a 45-minute Dubai nets session.
Every batsman was forced to rotate out if one was dismissed, a training method Khawaja described as: "an absolute pain in the arse and I hate it".
Langer asked for "honest feedback", and Khawaja said he worried they were "harping on negatives".
The conversation finished with Langer telling the group: "If you guys wanna say this isn't suiting my f***ing style, no worries. I'll suit your style when we don't have f***ing 20 batting collapses every time we play for Australia".
Langer and Paine's remarkable growth as leaders is chartered in the documentary that covers Australia's 18-month journey from sandpaper-gate to retaining the Ashes in England last September.
Players started a running gag about Langer's smile as Australia's Test and ODI resurrections took off 12 months ago.
"Reviewing processes are a pretty common practice in high-performing sports teams. That (Boxing Day exchange) was just one snippet," Paine said.
"We did it once there, we've done it other times as well. At the start JL came in with some pretty clear plans to improve standards and behaviour around the group.
"Part of that plan was to be a little bit harder on us at the start. The more he was in the role the more he got to know people (and) the better relationships he had. Then we started to see the real JL."
The documentary also reveals;
*LANGER forced the Aussies re-watch the Ben Stokes-Jack Leach Test-winning partnership the next day, highlighting Paine's error in letting Stokes retain the strike
*QUOTES from Novak Djokovic and golfer Jack Nicklaus accompanied the Ashes game plan, which instructed bowlers to nail 6-8m lengths and batters to wear out veterans Stuart Broad and James Anderson
*PLAYERS unanimously voted for Aaron Finch as ODI captain, although it took Langer and Finch a while to jell
*FINCH would "wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night" thinking about India knocking him over cheaply as he feared missing selection for the World Cup
*BOWLING coach David Saker warned Finch couldn't open the batting in home Tests; to which Langer replied "well then he doesn't play"
Paine helped clear every episode of the documentary for public release.
"I was a little bit nervous when it first came to fruition, and JL and I were on our first tour as captain-coach," Paine said.
"(But) I was pretty open from the start. I remember having a meeting with them in Brisbane and I was sold straight away, because I love watching the NFL ones."
THE DUBAI BLOW-UP IN FULL
(Langer asks the group "honest feedback" after a 45-minute net session, where every batsman had to rotate if one was dismissed).
USMAN KHAWAJA: "I think (we're) more worried about getting out than actually trying to execute better and execute well."
JUSTIN LANGER: "But what happens when you get out in a game?"
UK: "If I'm getting out two times in the nets, I know I'm getting out two times in the nets. I'm playing f***ing Test cricket here."
JL "What are you worried about then?"
UK: "I'm worried about harping too much on negatives."
JL: "Then don't get out. What we are saying is we're not going to accept you getting out. Because for the last 20 times in Australian cricket we've had 20 batting collapses. Twenty f***ing batting collapses, and we've got to get better at that. This has got nothing to do with how we set up the nets session, because the Pakistanis might put 10 blokes around you. This isn't f***ing fair. Or they might put 10 blokes on the boundary. This isn't going to suit my f***ing style. You gotta deal with it, because you've got to deal with it in Test cricket. So we're going to put pressure on you. Now if you guys wanna say this isn't suiting my f***ing style, no worries. I'll suit your style when we don't have f***ing 20 batting collapses every time we play for Australia."