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Langer: we’re one country, one sport

Australian coach Justin Langer knows cricket in a COVID-19 world means being flexible but he has real concerns about a fixture clash which could require two national teams in two different countries next February.

Cricket Australia has committed to a white-ball series in New Zealand at the same time the Test team is due to travel to South Africa.

South African cricket is currently in crisis – both with COVID-19 and the state of its board – and the scheduled three-Test tour might not go ahead.

But should both series be locked in Langer said the two different groups could each require 18 players to cope with COVID restrictions, which could leave the second half of the Sheffield Shield season devoid of the bulk of the best players.

While he knows its necessary, to help the commercial cause of other countries in the absence of most cricket, Langer doesn’t like it one bit.

“My personal opinion, and the chairman knows this and the CEO knows this really clearly, is I don’t like it at all,” Langer said on Wednesday.

“We’re one country aren’t we, we’re not two countries. And we’re one sport. This year, what’s happened with COVID, I understand there are complexities to it.

“If you have two Australian cricket teams, and in the current COVID period, what that means is, let’s say we have to take 18 players to New Zealand and we’ve got to take 18 players to South Africa, that’s 36 players out of the back-end of the Sheffield Shield. That’s before any injuries that will inevitably happen.

“You take all your best players out of the back half of the Shield competition. They are the sort of things that worry me. But this is a really strange season. I certainly would never like to see it being a permanent fixture.”

Langer pointed to the clear benefits of the Shield through the opening rounds, highlighting the performances of Queensland all-rounder Michael Neser who has been 12th man for the Test team 10 times in the past two years.

Michael Neser was a standout with bat and ball for Queensland (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

“Michael Neser, a hundred and five (wickets), he’s a fine cricketer and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets an opportunity with the Australian cricket team soon,” Langer told SEN

“Geez he keeps knocking hard.”

The national coach also said it was “exciting” to see leg-spinners Mitchell Swepson and Lloyd Pope take wickets, as well as Test number three Marnus Labuschagne.

Langer said run-machine Labuschagne could be an “awesome part of the team” if he continued to develop his bowling.

“Marnus bowls for hours and hours and is getting better and better. He has “massive upside,” Langer said.

“If you’ve got a top-order batsman who can bowl leg-spin with the passion and energy he does, he becomes an awesome part of the team.”

Marnus Labuschagne made 167 then took a wicket for Queensland in the win over Tasmania in Adelaide, (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

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