Great cricket teams possess superstars, players that can change the nature of a game in a moment with their brilliance. Yet these same outfits also require gutsy little scrappers who fight as though their very existence depends on it.
For the last decade, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath have been the champions of Australian cricket. But this great side will find it just as hard to replace a worker like Justin Langer, who yesterday confirmed he will retire from Test cricket at the end of the fifth Ashes Test which began today in Sydney.
Langer's departure follows the retirements of Warne and McGrath and the surprise decision of Damien Martyn to quit. It may not be of much consolation to Andrew Flintoff's side at the moment but the Australian side that travels to England in 2009, which is expected to be without Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist too, will find it far harder to retain the Ashes than it has to regain them this winter.
"This is an emotional time for me," admitted Langer at a hastily arranged press conference at the Sydney Cricket Ground. "There hasn't been a waking moment for the last 20 years where I haven't thought about playing Test cricket and wearing the baggy green cap, so this is a tough moment. I know in my heart that it is the right thing to do. They say 'Go out on your terms and on top of your game' and I think I am.
"I retire from the game having played with some of the greatest players of all time. It's been a privilege to play with Shane, Glenn and Adam Gilchrist, the greatest wicketkeeper of all time, and Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting, who is the greatest batsman this country has produced after [Don] Bradman.
"The hardest thing is not going to be able to walk out with Haydos [Hayden] again in a Test match. We've formed a great partnership and, like Ricky and Tugga [Steve Waugh], he's going to be a friend for life. To give up the chance to wear the baggy green is a difficult thing."
Langer owes his success to an exceptional work ethic and desire to score runs. The 36-year-old spent three seasons with Middlesex during my career and he was superb. I have never seen a player work so hard at his game. Several of the younger players at the county found the intensity of his cricket intimidating but Andrew Strauss benefited enormously from having Langer around. Without him he would probably not be playing Test cricket now.
Langer will continue to play first-class cricket for Western Australia, and will captain Somerset this coming summer. "It would be impossible for me not to play cricket," said Langer. "I love the game and that is why it was so hard to make the decision not to play Test cricket any more.
"I am certainly going to play for the next 8-10 months and then see what happens. There's an amazing challenge at Somerset. They're at the bottom of everything and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
There is a church next to the ground in Taunton and it will be interesting to see how Langer copes with the bell ringing on a Sunday morning. When captaining Middlesex at Southgate in 2000, a ground situated next to a church, the bell ringers were pealing away on a Sunday morning much to the annoyance of the batting Langer.
An irate Langer called for the 12th man and instructed him to go to the church to stop them ringing. The 12th man did as he was told but to no avail. The Taunton bells might just stop if Warne and McGrath come over to watch.Reuse content