Justin Langer was a great player in a team that was arguably the greatest to have played Test Match cricket. His batting average of 45 over 105 Test Matches and a First Class career average of 50, with more runs scored than any other Australian, marks him out as one of the leading batsmen of the modern game.
Career achievements like that don’t happen without countless hours of practice with bat in hand, fielding drills and all-round technique analysis, honing and implementation.
Thinking outside the box
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For Langer, those are merely the obligatory basics on which any cricket career has to be based.
They have been the cornerstone of his preparation, sport specific conditioning and skill sets, but the Western Australian knew he had to look outside the confines of the conventional to give him the edge and to maximise the final percentages of his talent.
In his younger days Justin was, by his own admission, “a mouthy little bloke who had lots to say and would then stand behind his bigger mates when there was trouble”.
But things changed when he discovered Martial Arts as a 16-year-old and embarked on a dedicated journey to his much valued black belt in Zendo Kai.
The baggy green cap of Australia that he wore between 1993-2007 is probably the country’s most iconic symbol of sporting achievement.
You will often hear that “The Baggy Green is everything”, but on a personal level Langer rates his black belt just as high.
The boxing years
The teenager had developed an authentic passion for boxing by then also. As is so often the case, influences and motivations start close at home and it was Justin’s grandfather who made a big impression on him and taught him many valuable life lessons.
He had boxed and the young langer was absolutely captivated from a young age.
“As my cricketing progressed I inevitably drifted away from my martial arts and boxing. Not out of a lack of interest – far from it – but at that point in time it was all about playing the best cricket possible and being noticed by the right people, therefore a lot of things had to get put on hold,” explained Justin, who also became a great servant of the English county game for Middlesex and then as captain of Somerset.
Physical & mental strength
Justin was quick to point out that it wasn’t simply about physical conditioning but also mental toughness as well as being absolutely relevant to his own sporting discipline.
“On paper there might not appear to be too many overlaps between boxing and batting. The sports are entirely different and involve countless different skills and attributes, but I believed – and still do – that there was also much to relate them.”
“Both are great analogies of life, both are about facing your fears. They demand absolute concentration, appropriate response and require dedication, discipline and graft. Not to mention quite a bit of explosive violence adn physical intimidation! As far as I am concerned they extend beyond the physical and into the psychological and spiritual which is a huge area for me.”
“Something a combat sport does is teach humility – without it you will always be on the back foot or your backside and in terms of boxing and batting, literally as well as metaphorically!
“Respect for the opposition is vital to counter hot-headed contempt, and humility brings calm reasoning and prevents you from getting above yourself – both of which only serve to distract and take your eye off your target”.
Making a name for himself
Anybody who has spoken to Justin Langer or heard him speak will have quickly identified a deeply thoughtful and articulate man. Glib sporting cliches and by-the-script answers are not part of his repertoire.
And it is typical that he looked beyond the ‘surface’ of Muhammad Ali’s famous “Float like butterfly, sting like a bee” quotation to find the line that truly resonated for him –
“Your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see”.
In Part 2 tomorrow cricketing legend Justin Langer explains further about his training and sporting philosophies and talks more about his exploits in boxing and martial arts.
Connect with Expert Guy Holland.