Defending champions Australia are staring at a premature exit from the ICC T20 World Cup at home following England’s thumping 20-run win over New Zealand at Brisbane on Tuesday, and former bowling allrounder Simon O’Donnell believes the slide in the team’s fortune began following Justin Langer’s exit as chief coach.
Langer, despite guiding Australia to a massive Ashes win earlier this year was reportedly forced to quit as Cricket Australia (CA) and some players were not in favour of the former opener getting a long-term contract renewal. Langer was offered a six-month extension, which he reportedly refused and decided to step down before Australia’s series in Pakistan.
Andrew McDonald, who was Langer’s assistant, was Cricket Australia’s (CA) choice following his departure and was subsequently given a long-term contract.
However, O’Donnell, who played six Tests and 87 ODIs for Australia, believes the team has slipped following Langer’s departure, who was the head coach for four years, taking charge in 2018 following the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa and resigning in early February this year.
“Leadership via negotiation never works, I don’t care where you are, or what sport it is or what business it is, leadership of your own people via negotiation does not work because the standards will eventually drop,” O’Donnell said on SEN Breakfast, referring to Langer’s departure after some senior players weren’t happy with the coach’s reported micromanagement of the team.
“Now Justin Langer, whether he was right or wrong, whether his time was up or it wasn’t up, Cricket Australia made that call, the important part of Cricket Australia making that call was the input of the players. They were very happy then for the new coach Andrew McDonald to come in, they felt that was the best way to go.
“In my opinion, I’m not saying they’re wrong, I’m definitely not saying Andrew McDonald is not a good coach, but what I’m saying is there’s a shift of power here,” opined O’Donnell.
O’Donnell felt Langer’s hands-on approach and his firm ways while dealing with players are lacking now and felt players were more in charge of the side.
“When people start to think that they’re more in charge than they are, they might start to take the odd shortcut, do something a little differently and the preparation isn’t quite there as it generally would,” said O’Donnell.
“I’m a very interested observer, it’s an old saying and I like it, the day you start letting the animals run the zoo, you’re history. Now the summer will tell us where it’s at… we need a holistic look at what’s going on, we need the canvas to be painted by the end of the summer to see where we’re at.”
England’s win on Tuesday has made New Zealand and Jos Buttler’s team firm favourites to enter the semifinals as they are on five points each. While no team in the Super 12 can be taken for granted, New Zealand are up against Ireland in their last fixture, while England take on Sri Lanka in their final Super 12 fixture. If both results go according to script, Australia will most likely be eliminated as they — despite being on the same number of points as New Zealand and England –, have a negative net run rate (NRR).
They will have to beat Afghanistan by a really big margin on November 4 and hope New Zealand or England falter.
“Quite right (we’ve only lost one game to New Zealand by 89 runs), but I’ll tell you what we haven’t been, we haven’t been on our game for a World Cup,” said O’Donnell. “We’ve been talking the World Cup up for 12 months and how settled we are, what the line-up is going to do, and then suddenly it was all over the place.
“We’ve played without grasping the emotional side of the World Cup and blasting off with it. Our captain has been in questionable form, Steve Smith, is he in, is he out, there’s a bit of a changing of the guard going on as well, so I want to sit back and have a look. Just keep an eye on preparation and how people are going about things because it only takes a really small percentage of turning off to make a big difference at an elite level.
“If you’re not doing everything at 100 per cent, you’re just at 98, eventually that will tell, you won’t play the role you should be playing, and things will start to crumble.”