Justin Langer made it a hat-trick of retirements this week, with the most low-key of announcements. He’s the most low-key of players too, who is uber-passionate on the field, but not particularly noticable away from it.
His career has been an interesting exercise in constant reinvention. He started out as a middle order batsman against the likes of Curtly Ambrose. The 1992 West Indians claimed he was afraid and bowlers have been targeting ever since. They often hit him, too. South African’s Makhaya Ntini conked him so hard in the Johannesburg Test that he doesn’t remember it, which was a pity as it was his 100′th.
But for me the serious reinvention was in 1999/2000. He shared that famous partnership with Adam Gilchrist, in which Langer scored a century in his usual dogged style. That innings came at a time when his place in the side was under serious question, and it was only Steve Waugh’s faith in him that kept him going.
But between Waugh’s faith, and Gilchrist’s example, Langer was able to turn himself from an ugly duckling to a.. well, not so ugly duckling. I think swan would be pushing it. But he could be a mighty fast scoring duck. By the end of that 1999/2000 summer, Langer was able to score hundreds at a run a ball in the fourth innings.
And that was before he reinvented himself into half of an amazingly successful opening partnership with Matthew Hayden. That partnership has declined somewhat, for the strange reason that although they are still very effective batsmen, their successes have not conincided recently.
So I’ll miss the Brown-Nosed Gnome, a harsh nickname given to him by critics who disliked his adulation of Steve Waugh. He was a rough diamond, a real hardcase who could dish it out and take it in good measure. He was a man who took playing for Australia seriously, and never lost sight of how good it is to represent your country.