BBQs and backyard cricket – a Christmas with the Langers

BBQs and backyard cricket – a Christmas with the Langers


Justin Langer
Justin Langer’s Australia lead the Ashes series against England 2-0. The third Test begins in Melbourne at 23:30 GMT on 25 December

To many he is the intense, some even say difficult, coach of Australia.

Justin Langer, once the grittiest of Australia cricketers, is now the national team’s high-profile team boss.

But to one former England international, Langer is his Christmas Day host, as well as his former coach.

With Langer in charge of the barbecue, and his wife Sue putting together the spread, former England opener Michael Carberry and his mum had a Christmas to remember when staying over during his time in the Big Bash League.

“He is a very family orientated guy and they were very welcoming,” Carberry says.

“We just chatted, sat around the table on the outside patio near his pool.”

But a Christmas with the Langers couldn’t pass without one of Australia’s great traditions – a game of backyard cricket.

“My mum wasn’t so sure on the fielding part,” he says. “It was Justin, Sue, his daughters and us.

“I threw down some filthy leg-spin which was dispatched by one of his daughters, Justin’s youngest, who was a pretty good cricketer back then.”

Justin Langer
Langer, who was part of one of the greatest Test teams in history, posing for photographers with two of his daughters in 2000

Carberry was in Australia playing in the Big Bash for Perth Scorchers, where Langer was coach.

Nine thousand miles from home, he was anticipating a basic Christmas before the invite from Langer came.

When Carberry, who played six Tests including in the 2013-14 Ashes, returned to Perth the following year, the Langers hosted again.

“We had a great time,” Carberry adds. “They have become lifelong friends.

“His wife Sue would call my mum a couple of times a year. I message Justin from time to time. He is one of those great people I have met.”

The second time Carberry, a keen pencil artist, returned with a Christmas thank you gift.

“I took a portrait of Justin with his Test numbers and stats and got it framed in some shop in Perth,” Carberry says.

“He was actually blown away. He didn’t know I could draw.”

Langer played 105 Tests for Australia before he was appointed coach in 2018 after the Australian ball-tampering scandal, tasked with cleaning up the team’s image.

Two years ago, Langer’s Australia retained the Ashes in England for the first time since 2001 – and in October, he led them to their first men’s T20 World Cup.

But in between, his tenure has been dogged by reports of clashes with playersexternal-link over his intense leadership style.

“Justin is someone who believes in the honesty approach – telling people where they are at,” says Carberry, who won the Big Bash in his first season at the Scorchers. “I prefer that.

“One thing with Justin is you would go back in unbelievable physical nick.

“You earned that Christmas dinner.”

Langer guided the Scorchers to three Big Bash titles during his time in charge.

“There were times when he got himself too emotionally attached to our performance,” Carberry says.

“I remember we lost a game to the Melbourne Stars. We were controlling the game but I think we went for 90 in five overs.

“Langer went ballistic and rightly so.

“I always found his criticism of the team to be fair.

“In that situation as the athlete, you have to take those performances on the chin. It had the desired effect. We beat the Stars in the semi-final and went on to beat the Sixers in the final.”

Michael Carberry
Michael Carberry scored 266 runs in 10 matches at an average of 44.33 in his first season with the Scorchers

Carberry was won over by Langer in his first weeks with the Scorchers when the Australian went out of his way to back him in the media after a slow start.

“It was December and I had just come off no cricket – and to hit the ground running in T20 is quite hard,” he says. “Perth takes time to get used to.

“I had been training hard but the timing and rhythm wasn’t there.

“There were rumblings in the media – I wasn’t the biggest overseas name – and maybe other coaches in that scenario may not have gone up in the press and been so vocal.

“He stood up and said: ‘No, this guy will come good.’

“The next game, I got 70 in 35 balls and got us over the line and my tournament took off. We ended up winning it with me there at the end in the final.

“I credit Justin for the time he spent, the balls he threw and the pep talks and his backing in front of the media.”

This Christmas will be busier for Langer with the third Ashes Test, where Australia could seal a series win at the earliest opportunity, beginning on 26 December – 23:30 GMT on Christmas Day in the UK.

Rumours remain that Langer could leave his post after the end of the series.

“It’s difficult to have an opinion without knowing what had actually happened,” Carberry says.

“Justin cares about the job he does and rightly so.

“It is a dream job to play for your country, to also coach them is beyond your wildest dreams. He is a coach that cares.”

Whatever the future holds, it is unlikely England will be shown any of Langer’s Christmas goodwill on the field.


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