Perth Scorchers coach Justin Langer has attacked critics of the Big Bash League club’s list management, saying his efforts to keep a strong West Australian group together over time were justified by the development of the players. Langer also lashed out at Cricket Australia for releasing D’Arcy Short, Travis Head and Alex Carey from the national team squad to play in Sunday’s BBL final.
Responding to accusations of contract “bundling”, whereby players receive generous state contracts to counterbalance lesser payments within the BBL salary cap, Langer said the performances of players such as Andrew Tye should mean Western Australia and the Scorchers should not be questioned as to whether they were flouting CA’s regulations, which outlaw states from offering any “inducement” for players to choose a particular BBL club.
“Give me one example and then we can talk about every single one of these practices of bundling contracts,” Langer told ABC Radio when questioned about the Scorchers’ contracting. “It’s tougher, to be fair, for the states with two teams, but they also have huge populations. So they’ve got the opportunity to do what we do.
“Let’s use AJ Tye [for example]. The same AJ Tye we took off the scrapheap of club cricket about six years ago, the same guy who went to Sydney Thunder, didn’t like it and wanted to come home, who loves Perth and Western Australia, who just got $1.5m in the IPL auction, who just took five wickets because he’s improved in our programme. If we’re doing the wrong thing by that, I’ll cut my leg off. It’s unbelievable.
“We had 21 guys play for us in 10 games this year which is extraordinary, and five or six of them are young Western Australia kids. We didn’t have Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff or the Marsh brothers play the whole series for us. We do proudly want our guys to stay but along the way we lose D’Arcy Short and Marcus Harris, and Bradley Hogg and Craig Simmons and Mike Hussey because we can’t afford to keep them. That’s the truth. We’re really fair on our players. All this dialogue I’ve been hearing this series, I guarantee now we’ve lost the semi-final, no-one will talk about it again.”
ESPNcricinfo has confirmed that the Scorchers are not under investigation by CA for their contracting practices, despite queries being raised with the governing body by at least two other BBL clubs and public questions being asked by the likes of Brad Hodge and Dirk Nannes. At the same time, Langer denied he had pressured members of the WA state squad to stay with the Scorchers, saying “they’re all big boys” with managers to negotiate on their behalf.
Langer said that any players who chose to stay in WA rather than taking bigger contracts with other BBL teams in the eastern states did so because they loved playing for the Scorchers and staying in their home state. He also said that the club had benefited from hard work done over the past five years – since Langer became state and BBL coach in 2012-13 – to foster a culture that players wanted to be a part of, irrespective of how much they were paid.
“So D’Arcy Short’s left, Marcus Harris has left. Mike Hussey and Brad Hogg, who are two of my best mates, they left. Craig Simmons left. What, so I’m coercing players? Give me a break,” Langer said. “If they don’t want to stay – every professional has a manager these days, they’re all big boys – if they don’t want to stay, they can go. If they want to stay because they love being here and they love the WACA family, and we win a lot, so why wouldn’t they want to stay here?
“The problem is you’ve got to work really hard to do that [create a winning culture]. But it’s easy to point fingers and say ‘they must be cheating’ or ‘JL must be coercing players’. Are you joking? All winter when our coaches are in the cold WACA indoor centre, keeping an eye on our Under-17 and Under-19s kids, no-one’s telling us then we’re coercing them to stay.
“Or we’re keeping an eye on our whole programme, we’re watching club cricket all day – that’s the hard part of it, to develop this culture. But let’s not worry about doing all of that, that’s too hard, let’s just point our fingers and say they’re doing the wrong thing. Give me a break.”
On the subject of CA’s decision to release Short, Carey and Head for the tournament final, Langer said he was disappointed by the inconsistency after his team was unable to pick Tye or Ashton Agar for the semi-final. He also claimed that the decision contravened MoU discussions during last year’s fractious pay dispute where players were ruled out of playing T20 matches on consecutive days. Carey and Short will both play in Adelaide on Sunday after playing for Australia in Sydney on Saturday night.
“What I don’t like is the inconsistency, I find it phenomenal really,” Langer said. “We were told at the start of the Big Bash that none of the players who were in the Australian team would play the Big Bash and now all of a sudden they are. There’s no doubt the scheduling’s an issue and we’d like to see our best players, but we also know at the start of the season that Australian international cricket takes priority.
“I’m not pumped about the inconsistency of it, I sort of get it, but there were all of the arguments that went on about the MoU and we didn’t enjoy some of that dialogue that they don’t play the next day and all that sort of stuff. I’d just like to see things consistent, that’s all. We would’ve loved to have Ashton Agar and AJ Tye playing for us the other night and now al of a sudden that changes. Even if D’Arcy Short played, I’m happy with that because I never worry too much about the opposition, I worry about us
“That’s where it’s difficult for me, one of the hardest things about the Big Bash competition is trying to forecast and contract who you might have and who you might not have because of international commitments, and we all do that. That’s where list management is so crucial, and so to change what we understand, that’s pretty disappointing.”