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When Langer grabbed Gilchrist ‘by the neck’ during the 2001 Ashes

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Justin Langer, while in conversation with Shane Watson on Lessons Learnt with the Greats podcast, recalled the time he grabbed Australia teammate Adam Gilchrist ‘by the neck’ while struggling for form on Australia’s 2001 tour to England.

Langer was confident going into the 2001 Ashes, hoping the No. 3 spot in the Australian Test line-up would be his. However, Damien Martyn, who was in good nick in the ODI series, was preferred over him, leaving Langer to deal with a severe blow to his confidence.

“About two days before the first Test, I had a knock on the door from the legend Steve Waugh, who literally was my hero,” said Langer. “[He] knocks on the door of my hotel room …  walked into my room and says, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this mate, but you are not playing in the first Test.’ I didn’t know whether to cry on his shoulders or punch him out.

“This is my hero and my big brother, telling me that I was out [of the first Test], and I was literally shocked, I just didn’t see it coming. Damien Martyn had been in such amazing form in the one-day series leading up to it and he was so good [that] they couldn’t ignore him, and I was the casualty from it.

“What happened next was … I was doing all the physical stuff that Aussie blokes do, but what I wasn’t doing, I had to let go of the emotional bit – ‘I’m 31 years old, it’s the end of the dream, I’m out, I’m gone.’ And so for the next six-seven-eight weeks, I was playing the practice games, and I was batting so bad because I was trying so hard.

“And I believe in the ethos, ‘The harder you try, the worse it gets,’ particularly as an athlete because you tighten up … I couldn’t be batting any worse, I wasn’t making any runs, and I was getting angrier and angrier and more desperate because the dream’s going and I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I kept trying harder and harder and harder, hitting more balls, but I didn’t talk to anyone about the emotions I had.”

Langer sensed an opportunity after captain Steve Waugh was ruled out of the fourth Test of the series. However, another poor outing in the practice match against Sussex, where he scored 2 & 14 respectively while opening the innings, saw him sit out the fourth encounter as well.

It was after under-performing in the match against Sussex that Langer dumped his frustration on Gilchrist. “And it got to the point, where Steve Waugh tore his calf muscle leading up to the fourth Test,” he said. “I remember at Sussex and I’m thinking, ‘This is my chance, come on, Tugga [Steve Waugh] is out, this is my chance.’ At Sussex, I remember the first innings, I batted with Gilly, and I nearly started crying at the crease because Gilly is smacking them all around the park. I can’t even hit the ball to the square.

“Then I’m like, ‘C’mon, if I’ll get some runs in the second innings, I’ll play the next Test.’ Then they are going back 10 minutes before stumps, and I was opening the batting … there’s nothing worse. And I’m like, ‘C’mon, just get through 10-15 minutes’, and I’m out for a duck. What happens next is I’m walking off at the Hove and I wanted the whole ground to open up and swallow me.

“Adam Gilchrist, he is one of my great friends, and who was the captain, I grabbed him by the neck and chucked him up against the wall, ‘Look what you blokes have done to me!’ and I got really upset.”

Langer was drafted into the side for the fifth Test where he went on to score a career-defining century, sealing his spot as the opener of the side.

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