Langer’s heartwarming New Year’s gift
When Justin Langer inherited an embarrassed and fallen Australian cricket team, his first task was turning around the perception of the side.
Eighteen months on, his side is well and truly back on the road to recovery, having improved their image out of sight and won eight of 12 Tests in 2019.
On the first day of 2020, as fires continued to rage across Australia, the national coach continued to live by his mantra of being a side for all Australians.
With his side training at the SCG ahead of their final Test of the summer, Langer took time out of the session to share a moment with 80-year-old Bill Dean, whose son-in-law's house in Lithgow was almost lost by the blazes.
Langer gave him his training hat. Not out of fanfare.
Just because he wanted to make a small difference.
"It's not unusual. I mean, if you can put the smile on the faces of any Australian whether they're kids or Bill, who was telling us he's 80 years old - that's one of the privileges of the job, you can put smiles on people's faces," Langer told journalists in Sydney ahead of the New Year's Test.
"Again, without getting too deep or sentimental, hopefully we've done that a lot over the last 12 or so months, making people feel happy and like the Australian cricket team again.
"There wasn't too much in that. I just thought he'd appreciate having an Australian training cap on his head. He looks like he's going through a bit of a tough time. He told me his son-in-law's house nearly got burned down the last couple of days. It's just about putting a smile on Aussie's faces."
It's safe to say it did, as Bob held on to Langer's right-hand with two outstretched hands, saying: "Justin, thank you very much. You have put years on my life."
On the eve of the iconic Pink Test, the national emergency that is ravaging across Australia and threatened to see the New Year's Test be shifted away from Sydney isn't lost on the national cricket side.
But such is the poor air quality and surging heat, which is expected to be at its worst in the coming days on Saturday, that the health and wellbeing of the cricketers is being questioned.
Langer, however, was happy to leave the judgement over the hazardous conditions to the officials, but said it was his side's responsibility to play a brand of cricket that would put smiles on Australians faces.
"There's not much we can do. Obviously there will be a lot of people that keep on top of it. But the reality is, this is a game of cricket," Langer said.
"In our game it's an important game of cricket, it's a Test match, but in terms of what's happening around Australia I mean it's stupid - it'll be the first time I ever say this in my life - I hope it rains a bit during the Test match because actually Sydney needs it.
"I hope it rains at night so we can keep playing cricket, but Sydney, like lots of parts of Australia, needs the rain, doesn't it?
"We'll keep an eye on it. We'll get on and do it as well as we can.
"But obviously our hearts go out to (those affected by the bushfires).
"We are so privileged, we are so privileged with what we do. We get to play Test cricket. A lot of people in Australia are suffering.
"We've talked about - I don't want to get corny or sentimental - but we've talked about making Australians proud of us for the last 12 or 18 months, earning back respect and we talk about making Australians (proud) and we're feeling for all the Australians out there who are suffering and it's a really tough time.
"All we can do is put a smile on their face by playing some good cricket."
Langer's sentiments were backed up by New Zealand off-spinner Will Somerville.
"It's bloody horrible, shocking, and it's been going on for so long," former NSW spinner Somerville said.
"I don't know what more to say.
"There's talk about smoke delaying this game but who cares, it doesn't mean anything compared with what people are going through."