Interview: Coach Langer thrills in Voges' late flourish
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The amazing high of confidence and the sober knowledge of cricket mortality have combined to inspire Australia batsman Adam Voges to the astonishing feats of his golden summer, according to his coach Justin Langer.
Voges was named man-of-the-match in the first test against New Zealand, firing the tourists to an emphatic innings win in Wellington on Monday with a brilliant 239, his second double-century of his short test career.
Having compiled an unbeaten 269 against West Indies and 106 not out against the same team in his previous two trips to the crease, Voges amassed 614 runs since his last dismissal -- way back in November during the maiden day-night test against New Zealand in Adelaide.
That smashed a 12-year record held by Sachin Tendulkar who collected 497 runs between wickets in 2004. It also left Voges with a Don Bradman-esque average of 97.46 from 14 matches.
Not bad work for a man who played his first test at the age of 35 in June -- and promptly became the oldest debutant to score a century with an unbeaten 130 against West Indies at Roseau.
Langer, Voges' coach and mentor at Sheffield Shield side Western Australia, has been thrilled to see a player he once helped through a time of crushing doubt become the game's hottest player.
"It's been magnificent. He could probably never have written a script of how well he's playing," Langer told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
"That said there's no more deserving person. He's an outstanding character. Like great players and great people do, he's grabbed his opportunity with both hands.
"He's confident and confidence is an amazing thing. And he knows that at his age he's got to run with the opportunity for as long as he can, so he's really hungry to do that."
Putting established team mates like opener David Warner and his captain Steven Smith in the shade, Voges' 899 runs at a giddy average of 179.80 is Australia's best from the seven matches over the summer.
At the age of 35, Voges' call-up for the touring squad to West Indies and England was something of a surprise for local cricket fans, but not for Langer.
A gritty opening batsman in a succession of great Australian teams from 1993-2007, Langer watched his Western Australia captain rack up 1,358 runs at an average of 104.46 during an outstanding Shield season in 2014-15.
Just over two years before, however, Voges was in a major form trough and feared for his spot in the state side when Langer took over as coach at the end of 2012.
Voges was sporting an awkward-looking batting stance somewhere between that of former England captain Graham Gooch and ex-England batsman Peter Willey, who was famous for facing bowlers front-on.
"He had the most unorthodox, robotic, mechanical stance I'd ever seen," the 45-year-old Langer, who played 105 tests for Australia, said.
"It was the most bizarre thing I had ever seen. I remember throwing balls at him at the WACA (ground) and I said 'What are you doing?' He said 'What do you mean?'.
"I said 'You are not going to make runs with that stance, go back to tapping your bat and getting natural and relaxed and then watch the ball like a hawk, which is your trademark'.
"That was sort of a starting point in his turnaround in his fortunes. All of a sudden he was able to float, move his feet properly, hit the ball on both sides of the wicket."
The 36-year-old 'rookie', once picked in the test squad in 2006 but denied a debut, will savour his moment all the more for having waited so long, Langer said.
"He's super-fit and there's no reason why he can't keep playing," Langer said.
"But he also knows he can't get complacent. He can't stop scoring runs in club and Shield cricket because as soon as you do, 'Mother Cricket' will come and smack you."
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)