Justin Langer: ‘Praise in public, criticise in private’ has always been my ethos

Justin Langer
The Nightly
Mitchell Johnson has criticised David Warner's farewell tour.
Mitchell Johnson has criticised David Warner's farewell tour. Credit: WAN

Let’s cut to the chase.

Rather than talking about the first Test of the summer, at one of the greatest stadiums in the world, between the current world champions Australia and the enigmatic Pakistanis, the talk has been about a feud between two of our greatest players.

Not a single person has asked me about the cricket over the past couple of weeks. Instead, every question has been around Mitchell Johnson’s recent article in The Sunday Times and his former teammate David Warner.

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So, for what it’s worth, here is my take.

I believe in a simple ethos of, ‘praise in public, criticise in private.’ In other words, if you want to say something publicly, be positive and use the opportunity to praise the person you are talking about. In contrast, if you want to criticise someone, look them in the eye and tell them how you are feeling.

Now, I can see every newspaper editor falling off their seat when reading this sentiment. Because let’s face it, good news stories don’t get as much traction as negative ones.

But when it comes to this latest spat between two of my mates, Mitch and Davie, the only winner is the media machine, which eats this stuff for breakfast.

Years ago, I used to shake my head in disbelief at the way players from other teams like England, South Africa and New Zealand would publish books or articles and use them as an opportunity to write each other off in public. It never made sense to me and I certainly never thought we would do it here in Australia.

Let others criticise us, but we would tend to stick tight as a part of the Australian cricket culture.

warner and johnston
One-time teammates David Warner (l) and Mitchell Johnson (r) are at loggerheads these days. (Julian Smith/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

It never made much sense to me when our great mate Shane Warne publicly criticised Steve Waugh or John Buchanan. All three of these were (are) my friends, and Warney’s view, while he had every right to share it, never sat easy with me.

During my playing and coaching days, there were a couple of past players who never had a good word to say about me. To be honest, that has hurt over the years. Coming from people I respected, I would have much rather they sat me down with a beer or a coffee and told me how I could get better or what they didn’t like about me. That was always the Australian way of doing things as I knew it.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not one for shirking a single issue, but I do believe there are ways of getting your message across without getting personal.

Let’s turn our attention to that because that’s what summer sport in Australia is about.

Mitch is one of the very best people I have met in the game. He is a gentle giant who was one of the great players and athletes I have seen. Like a lot of greats, he is also stubborn. While I don’t know the ins and outs of his gripe with Davie, I hope they can talk it out behind closed doors.

He and Davie would have shared many happy moments together as teammates and I hope they can remember these going forward. It is much more fun.

Davie, on the other hand, is another doting father who has entertained us as much as any player in our history. His dynamism with a bat in his hand, running between the wickets, or in the charging around in field is breathtaking.

He will be acutely aware that he needs to make runs. Every player who wears the baggy green cap understands that performance is the only currency of value.

The only reason the great David Warner is being questioned now is that he hasn’t scored the runs he, and we, have been accustomed to. No-one will know that better than the man himself and he will be determined to remedy that this week.

The advantage he has had is that his partnership with Usman Khawaja has been very good and the Australian team, and selectors, continue to recognise this. The chemistry between the openers is important and these two have it in buckets. I would expect nothing less than Uzzie and the Australian team to back up their close mate in public. That’s a given. ‘Praise in public.’

David Warner ton
Centurion David Warner looks sure to get his wish for a grand farewell to Test cricket at the SCG. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

The toughest role as the Australian head coach was being a selector. This in mind, I have complete empathy for George Bailey, Tony Dodemaide and Andrew McDonald. Selection is a thankless and complex task, and they, like Warner and any player in the Australian XI, are highly aware of the need for performance.

Now that the final decisions for The West Test have been made, my hope is that we turn our attention to the cricket. This team can now be categorised as one of the best. They play an entertaining brand with the bat, boast one of the all-time great bowling attacks and their fielding is elite.

Pakistan will be rank underdogs, but they can never be underestimated, because of their brilliantly inconsistent talent.

Optus Stadium will host a new grass bank, perfect weather conditions and two teams who are sure to entertain.

Let’s turn our attention to that because that’s what summer sport in Australia is about.

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