Mitchell Johnson first blasted Test captain Pat Cummins for his role in Justin Langer’s resignation – now a journalist is in the firing line.
The Justin Langer saga has sparked a frenzy of accusations and potshots, with former Australian bowler Mitchell Johnson blasting a veteran cricket journalist following his previous takedown of Test captain Pat Cummins.
Langer’s resignation sparked a passionate response from Australian cricket fans and high-profile figures, most notably former Test captain Ricky Ponting and Johnson.
The 51-year-old was offered a short-term contract extension following Friday’s Cricket Australia board meeting, but he turned it down. Assistant coach Andrew McDonald has been appointed interim head coach ahead of next month’s Pakistan tour.
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Langer was appointed national men’s coach in the frenzied turmoil of Australian cricket’s darkest hour following the infamous ball-tampering saga of March 2018. He was tasked with restoring pride in the national team and despite producing mixed results, he leaves with Australia as the No. 1 ranked Test team, reigning T20 World Cup champions and a 4-0 Ashes triumph.
On Sunday, Johnson turned on ex-teammate Cummins in an extraordinary public attack, penned in a newspaper column. He was scathing of Cummins’ public appearances made in the days leading up to the CA board meeting in which he refused to show support for his embattled coach.
“Pat Cummins has been lauded as some type of cricketing saint since his elevation to the top job this summer. Cummins might have delivered with the ball during the Ashes series, but he has failed his first big test as captain pretty miserably,” Johnson wrote in a column for The West Australian.
“He had plenty of public opportunities to endorse an extension for Langer. So when he let it through to the keeper every time, it became pretty obvious he didn’t want it to happen.
“Cummins holds a lot of power and must have been central to what’s happened. He’s clearly had an agenda to get in a coach he wants. His recent interviews have been gutless by not respecting his coach when he could have been upfront from the start.”
Johnson says the team has “lost him” and most of the Australian public as well.
On Sunday, Sydney Morning Herald chief cricket writer Malcolm Conn penned a column arguing that Cummins “has been unfairly singled out” for failing to publicly back Langer.
“They have every right to be upset with how Langer has been treated but there was no need for them to trash the joint and the office of Australian captain on the way out,” Conn wrote of past players who have been critical in the aftermath of Langer’s resignation.
“Whether Langer’s greatest supporters agreed or disagreed with any decision about his future, they should have looked to the horizon and pondered what was best for Australian cricket.”
But Johnson quickly returned serve, posting a response to his Instagram in which he referenced the sacking of former Australian coach Mickey Arthur, who was at the helm for the infamous “homeworkgate” affair in India back in 2013.
Conn suggested Johnson was central in the “player agitation” that saw Arthur lose his job.
The 40-year-old former fast bowler accused the journalist, who previously worked as a communications manager with Cricket Australia and Cricket NSW, of a breach of confidentiality.
“Hey Malcolm Conn interesting breach in information/confidentially as a former team media manager with all the Justin Langer articles pal,” he wrote.
“I’m happy to let you know what happened with the Mickey Arthur sacking, I’m sure your inside man being the team manager Gav Dovey is a real reliable source.
“PS loved hearing you on the radio the other day squirming because you got asked a few questions.”
Johnson was referring to Conn’s fiery on-air encounter with Liam Bartlett on 6PR Mornings last week.
Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley also condemned Johnson’s comments about Cummins, downplaying the captain’s role in the coaching saga.
“I thought that Mitchell Johnson’s comments were unfair and not merited or reflective of the situation,” Hockley told The Daily Telegraph.
“I think any criticism of Pat through this process is entirely unfair.
“I think throughout the process, Pat has been very respectful (of Langer) and he’s also been very respectful of the private and confidential discussions we’ve had as we’ve consulted really broadly.”
Former Australian Test captain and ex-CA board member Mark Taylor believed that a schism had formed down generational lines.
“The problem at the moment is the current crop of players are creating a divide between them and the older players,” he told Channel 9’s Today.
“Ricky Ponting’s not happy, Steve Waugh’s not happy, I’m not happy, none of us are happy because of the way the game has been dragged through the mud.
“People like Justin Langer, who has just gone into the Hall of Fame, has been dragged through the mud. That disappoints us all.
“The players have to be careful in that regard that they don‘t isolate the rest of us from jobs like this.”
Langer, who has been on the road since October, will complete a two-week quarantine period in Perth before returning home.
Justin Langer’s resignation statement
It is said that in any venture, if you leave things in a better place that when you started then you have done your job. Whilst it is not up to me to judge, I hope Australian’s respect what has been achieved over the last four years in Australian cricket.
From day one I believed it was possible to both win and play the game in the spirit that is now expected from our supporters. For the last four years it has been proven this can be achieved and I am very proud of the team for their efforts on and off the cricket field. I hope we have made Australians proud and earned respect from countries around the world.
There has been a great deal of media speculation on my future as the Australian men’s cricket coach over the last 12 months and this has taken an enormous toll on my family. I hope through this time, and throughout my tenure, I have held myself with integrity and dignity.
On Friday night, I was offered a short-term contract until the end of the T20 World Cup in Australia, with the sentiment of ‘going out on a high’. After careful consideration I have decided not to accept this contract renewal, and as a result I believe it is in everyone’s best interests for the Australian cricket team to begin the next chapter immediately.
If media reports are correct, several senior players and a couple of support staff don’t support me moving forward, and it is now apparent the CA Board and CEO, Nick Hockley, are also keen to see the team move in another direction. I respect that decision. My life has been built on values of honesty, respect, trust, truth, and performance and if that comes across as “too intense” at times, I apologise.
In terms of ‘going out on a high’, I am blessed to have been a part of a T20 World Cup winning squad, an Ashes winning squad, watched the Test team rise to #1 ranked team in the world today, been selected as the Wisden Coach of the Year and been elevated to the Australian cricket Hall of Fame; all this in the last six months. I am grateful that I today leave the team on a high.
Australian cricket means the world to me.
It has since I was a kid, and I am grateful for the opportunity to play for, and coach our national team. I am thankful to the Board for the opportunity, and I will take with me many cherished memories and friendships from the last four years. Hopefully a good job has been done and I wish the team every success for the future.