Ahead of the much-awaited five-match ODI series against England, Australia’s newly appointed coach Justin Langer has shared his thoughts on the infamous ball-tampering scandal that shook the cricketing fraternity earlier this year.
Tim Paine was shouldered with the responsibility to lead Australia following the ball-tampering saga in South Africa in March. Cricket Australia had imposed a one-year ban on Paine’s predecessor Steve Smith and his vice-captain David Warner for their involvement in that disgraceful act, while rookie opener Cameron Bancroft was handed a 9-month suspension from international cricket.
In a candid interview with Nasser Hussain on Sky Sports Cricket, Langer said he “nearly died” when the events unfolded in Cape Town.
“When that moment [the ball-tampering] happened, as a past player and lover of Australia, I nearly died. And when I saw it was Cameron Bancroft, my heart nearly came out of my chest, I couldn’t believe it. So you’ve got to wonder why it gets to that point? But it has happened now and we’ve got to make sure we learn from it and get better from it because we can’t shy away either,” Langer quoted.
“Once upon a time, the opposition didn’t like us because we played really good, hard cricket — we were very skilful and we won a lot of games. It’s easy to dislike the opposition if they’re good, but there have been too many whispers in the last 12 months or so about the abuse on the field, or dare I say, the side playing like spoilt brats,” he added.
When asked to pinpoint the difference between champion Australia side of previous decades and Steve Smith’s team, Langer opined: “I think Steve Smith maybe just wasn’t strong enough in his leadership. But, he loves the game of cricket — he practices harder than anyone I’ve ever met — and he is a very, very nice young lad. There’s no doubt about that.”
“David, he has got that — you used the word, mongrel — bit of bite in him. And if you look back at the team of my era, some of our guys had that too. Matty Hayden played really hard cricket, Andrew Symonds at times played really hard, Steve Waugh. He didn’t have to say much, he’d just have to look at you and you’d be nervous. The question I’d ask with David is how he got so angry? They are the things that interest me as a coach, how do you get to a point where you almost explode?” he further said.
In the aftermath of the ball-tampering incident, Australian cricket team went through a stern public scrutiny with folks criticizing their team culture and win-at-all-costs attitude. Despite the unjustifiable series of events in South Africa, Langer feels there should always be room for sledging in sports, adding he “would hate to see the game of cricket played in complete silence”.
“In Australia, it’s [sledging] almost a term of endearment. If I play cards with my 12-year-old daughter Gracie, then we sledge each other, or call it banter or call it chat, whatever you want. I’ll play golf with my mum and dad and go, ‘nice sledge, nice sledge!’ But we don’t abuse each other, there is no room for abuse anywhere. I don’t think it is a trait anyone would be proud of, abusing someone,” Langer, who replaced Darren Lehmann as a coach, remarked.
“But, in the laws of the game does it say it has to be silent on the cricket field? As a person who has been in the game for a long time, like you, I would hate to see the game of cricket played in complete silence and no words were spoken — you’d lose a lot of the atmosphere and what it’s all about. You can do it with a smile on your face, you can do it by staring but there has got to be some talk on the cricket field surely?” he concluded.