Almost 25 years after his Test debut, Australia coach Justin Langer has found another addition to his best moments from Test cricket. And it didn’t involve Langer on the field but Usman Khawaja – a player who he helped transform and a player who took all the applause for a stupendous catch to dismiss Virat Kohli in Adelaide on Thursday. The catch, taken at gully, has been labelled as “one of my favourite moments ever in my Test career” by Langer and is culmination of months of physical exertion.
Since the appointment of a fitness fanatic Langer as coach, Khawaja has shed 10 kilograms resulting in elevated athleticism an example of which was visible when the Aussie took the one-handed diving catch as the ball went flying off Kohli’s blade.
“It was actually one of my favourite moments ever in my Test career, I reckon, for so many reasons,” Langer told cricket.com.au in a Facebook Live before play on day two of the first Test. “It’s the start of the Test series, it’s Kohli, a great start for us, and with everything that’s been going on with Uz.”
“And also, the most important thing for me, I won’t forget just after I was appointed (coach), I was sitting in the driveway in my house, talking to Uzzy about getting himself nice and fit so he could run hard between the wickets and field better. So when I see him take a catch like that, I was over the moon – for him and for the team.”
Langer pointed out that pledging to improve one’s fitness is one thing, but being able to do it is another entirely. “It just goes to show, that discipline,” he said. “We all talk about discipline, but for him to actually put it into practice … I’m so pleased for him, as he’s a great role model now for a lot of players around Australia.”
“And we’re seeing it not only in his fielding but also in his batting. He’s batting long periods of time, he’s batting as well as ever. I’m really pleased for a lot of reasons.”
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who was assistant coach alongside Langer on Australia’s tour of the UK in June, offered an insight into the “clear direction” the new coach gave his players when he took over from Darren Lehmann. “I know Justin’s philosophies on that sort of stuff and it’s fair enough,” Ponting told cricket.com.au. “These guys are highly paid professional athletes and when you have days like this (on Thursday) when it’s 39 degrees, it’s obviously going to be easier getting around when you’re 10 kilos lighter.”
Besides the Khawaja brilliance, Pat Cummins too threw his hat in the ring for fielding effort of the day. The Aussie quick hit the stumps from side on and while parallel to the ground despite having bowled 19 overs in energy sapping heat. It earned hosts Australia the big wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara who had scored 123 at the point. Langer confirmed the re-telling of big moments had already started. “He might’ve sent it out on the team WhatsApp group last night, and he might have sent it to me last night, just reminding me how good he is,” Langer said with a smile. “But when you do something special like that, he can show off as much as he wants.”