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Justin Langer stamps his authority as Australia's assistant coach David Saker resigns

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
458   //    08 Feb 2019, 21:32 IST

Australia v Sri Lanka - 2nd Test: Day 4
Australia v Sri Lanka - 2nd Test: Day 4

Australian assistant coach David Saker has resigned with immediate effect, with ex-England and Australian bowling coach Troy Cooley filling in on an interim basis.

This resignation leaves the Australians somewhat in the lurch, as it has come only six months out from the World Cup and subsequent Ashes series in the UK. But one senses there is more at play with this sudden resignation, as coaching and player tensions have taken their toll.

Saker is known as a rather brash and direct individual, and is a product of the ‘blokey’ and ‘loutish’ coaching style which encapsulated Darren Lehmann’s tenure as head coach. Prior to his departure after the Newlands tampering scandal, Lehmann put an emphasis on providing stern, sometimes harsh, feedback which certainly created an unpleasant environment where the players were concerned.

When Justin Langer took over the reins as head coach, he set about changing the dressing room culture - with more constructive and gentle feedback being at the forefront. But when Langer went public his new approach, he decided to keep Lehmann-era assistants such as Saker, Haddin and Hick firmly in the fold to usher in this new era of gentler, more thoughtful coaching.

One senses that what we are witnessing now with this sudden resignation is that two differing views on feedback and culture are at loggerheads. Saker’s resignation may have been more jump before being pushed.

These differing views came to a head at the close of play in Sydney during the India series. After Australia’s bowlers favored peppering the batsmen with short deliveries to little effect, essentially losing the ascendancy and giving away the series, Saker gave them a thorough dressing down in the rooms.

Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood were said to be none-too-pleased with the rather firm feedback, especially since they had become accustomed to Langer's gentler approach. 

With public relations being a high priority for the Australian hierarchy after a tumultuous 12 months, a private vocal spat between a coach of the old regime and a group of bowlers toiling away was not a good look. And it was one that made Saker’s position essentially untenable from that point on.

It is now clear that Langer can't have it both ways. Keeping coaches from a different era with different values and methods than his own was always going to be strenuous, and public disagreements hardly surprising.  

With Saker’s immediate resignation, Ricky Ponting’s elevation into the coaches' box as well as talk of other influential former players being brought in to assist Langer, it seems as if a wholesale change of personnel, if not culture, is at hand. And Langer is now stamping his authority where team management is concerned. 

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