Langer: Didn't come to win Edgbaston Test, here to win Ashes

Australia head coach Justin Langer talks about bowling rotation policy, the importance of off-spinner Nathan Lyon and the pressure of The Ashes.

Justin Langer: "I reckon the media and everyone else must be bored of me saying it but although the win at Edgbaston was fantastic, we didn’t come here to win the Edgbaston Test, we’ve come to win The Ashes."   -  Reuters

Well begun is not even half done. Australia head coach Justin Langer insists on this ahead of the second Ashes Test at Lord's, starting August 14. After thrashing England by 251 runs at Edgbaston to go 1-0 up in the five-match Ashes series, Langer talks about bowling rotation policy, the importance of off-spinner Nathan Lyon and the pressure of The Ashes.

There was a lot of chatter around Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood not playing the first Test. Was it a tactical call on the part of the think-tank?

We are incredibly fortunate that we’ve six superb fast bowlers available. As we have said right from the start, we will pick the three quicks who best suit our plans depending on the pitch. It was tough to leave out both Josh and Mitch at Edgbaston. Josh is a fantastic bowler and Mitch got 10 wickets in the last Test he played, but the result showed we got that call right. The series is five Tests in six and a bit weeks so to ensure we always have an attack that’s fit and firing we may have to make changes to keep players fresh. But it’s a nice headache to have and it shows we are again developing depth in Australian cricket, which is an encouraging sign.

Nathan Lyon has been a trump card for Australia, especially in Test cricket. A word on him?

I didn’t realise how good a bowler Nathan was until I started the role of head coach. He trains as hard as anyone and is a great thinker on the game. Also, he has a rock-solid temperament, which he showed again at Edgbaston, first when partnering Steve Smith to his first innings hundred and then when helping to bowl us to victory on the final day. The fact he’s now gone past 350 Test wickets tells you all you need to know about his skills. He’s still relatively young as a spinner, so he can get many more wickets if he maintains his fitness and form. He’s shown he can take wickets all around the world in any conditions. There aren’t many spinners around who can do that.

Nathan Lyon picked up nine wickets in Australia's win over England in the 1st Test of the Ashes series in Edgbaston.   -  Reuters

 

There's plenty of outside noise around The Ashes — the build-up, crowd and so on and so forth. How do you insulate the team from all this and ensure the focus remains on cricket?

The players are professional. They train as hard as any group I’ve ever been associated with and they know what’s at stake for us — the chance to be the first Australia men’s side to win an Ashes series in England since 2001. That makes us focused, believe me.

I reckon the media and everyone else must be bored of me saying it but although the win at Edgbaston was fantastic, we didn’t come here to win the Edgbaston Test, we’ve come to win The Ashes. That is our sole objective, our sole focus and it will remain that way until the end of the series.

READ | Ashes 2019: England drops Moeen Ali; Jofra Archer in line for Test debut

You have been an Ashes player yourself. Does that work to your advantage when it comes to handling the pressure and passing on tips to the players?

Experience counts, and also learning the lessons of the past. I mentioned our win in the series in India to the media the other day, the one in 2003/4 I think it was, the first time we won a series there since 1969/70. When we won that series we did so in large part because we were disciplined with the ball and our aim is to be exactly the same here.

We’ve got myself and Steve Waugh here, as well as the likes of Brad Haddin and Graeme Hick, and we can speak with the players about situations they may find themselves in and how to deal with those situations. We all know about playing in these conditions but some of our players are less experienced than others. Our knowledge as a group can help them bridge that gap.

READ | Ashes 2019: Leach not solely focused on Smith wicket

As a coach and former Aussie cricketer, how satisfying is it to see the transformation in the side, from say, a year ago?

We’re happy with where we are at the moment but it’s a start, nothing more. We want to be the best in the world, the same as every other team, and to do that we have to win consistently all over the world. That’s our challenge in the rest of this Ashes series and beyond it.