“This guy is different. He is very thoughtful, very serious and committed to what he is doing and getting better.”
That was evident when Langer, the tough-as-teak former Test opening batsman, disputed Gilbert’s claim over dinner that batsmen could not track the entire delivery from a fast bowler with their eyes.
“So your brain fills in, it has to be fill in gaps and try and anticipate where the ball is going to be,” Gilbert said.
“Justin said: ‘No, no, no – I could follow the ball at that speed’. Most coaches would have just left it at that but we had an hour, two-hour debate around the table. You could tell he was curious, he just didn’t accept it.”
Gilbert said Langer had also been interested in “balance and wellness and perspectives”, traits he will need in leading the cultural change of the national team.
Langer has taken charge of the Australian team at a crucial juncture, where his role involves far more than technical preparation. The fall-out of the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, leading to the suspensions of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, has meant his mandate is broad.
“There is a difference between competitiveness and aggression and we’ve got to be careful with that,” Langer said at his appointment last week.
Gilbert will head to the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane next week, where he will work with Australia’s top coaches, including Langer.
“There are all kinds of pressures, for sure, and he will have lots of people giving him opinions. We are going to spend some time with him out here – it will good for him to assemble a board of advisors, just like corporations have boards of advisors … he needs a small group around himself, of people that he really trusts … but he should have people in there that aren’t necessarily cricket people,” Gilbert said.
Matthew Betsey, Cricket Australia’s head of coach development, said Gilbert’s insights would be beneficial.
“What Wade does is really focus on how to get better. A focus of our’s has been to make sure people get better and that’s one of the things that resonated with JL back in 2016,” Betsey said.
“Wade and his work is based on principles that help teams be effective and get better. That’s where I think the real value for our coaches are. It’s not just at the elite level, either – it’s at all levels of our coaching. We want people to be inquisitive and understand what good coaching means.
“Whether you are in the Australian team and representing the country or whether you are turning up on a Saturday morning and you have a coach in front of you, you just want a good experience, having a bit of fun, learning, developing yourself – those components is where Wade will really help our coaches.”
Gilbert has written several books on coaching and how the best go about their business. His breakfast appearance discussed how to build for sustained success, create a culture of excellence and seek improvement.
CA chief James Sutherland has said the role of the Australian team coach has heightened in recent years, with Betsey questioning whether the coach is given enough prominence.
“My view is more around acknowledging the role of the coach. Just because the captain has had such a prominent role, and rightly so … but for a national coach, it would have been a tough decision for ‘JL’, basically signing away 300 days of the year to being on the road and not seeing your family and all those things. There are some sacrifices that go along with it, as well as the reward and opportunity,” he said.
“It’s about really, for us, promoting what coaches can do and how they can get better and the influence they have on people.”
Jon Pierik is a sports writer with The Age, focusing primarily on AFL football, cricket and basketball. He has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.