New Australia cricket coach Justin Langer has immediately set his focus on winning respect back from the general public after the sport’s ball-tampering saga.
Langer, who played 105 Tests for Australia and has spent the past six years as a successful coach with Western Australia and the Perth Scorchers, was unveiled as Darren Lehmann’s successor on Thursday.
The 47-year-old will coach Australia in all three formats of the game and has signed a four-year deal, effective immediately.
The next 12 months will prove a difficult challenge, given the lengthy suspensions handed down to former skipper Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and opener Cameron Bancroft for their roles in the ball tampering that brought shame on Australian cricket.
And while those bans will impact on Australia’s ability on the field, the battle off the field is just as important as the team tries to restore a reputation badly affected by an ill-tempered tour of South Africa that, in addition to ball tampering, featured a series of ugly clashes involving players.
“I think one of the things that’s really important is that we keep looking to earn respect. To me, respect is worth more than all the gold in the world,” Langer told reporters.
“We look to encourage great cricketers, but also great people … it is also about being good citizens and being good Australians.
“We have got to make sure the behaviours are good. If we do that, I think the outcomes will look after themselves.
“We all know what the behaviour, the acceptable behaviours are. There is a difference between competitiveness and aggression and we’ve got to be careful with that.”
Langer insisted his side would not completely change their approach and would play “hard, competitive cricket”, as long they stuck to simple principles.
“The public will be disappointed if we don’t play good, hard, competitive cricket. That said, we can modify our behaviours,” he said.
“Everyone knows the difference between right and wrong. That’s simple. We get taught that when you are a little kid … if our players literally stick to that, right or wrong, they will be okay, I think.”
‘Of course they will be welcomed back’
The subject of Smith, Warner and Bancroft was always going to be a hot topic.
Langer, who has played a key role in the development of Bancroft with Western Australia, said the trio would be welcomed back into the fold – as long as they met new team standards.
“They [Smith and Bancroft] are great kids. They’ve made mistakes,” he said.
“We have all made mistakes and we can all get better.
“David Warner made a mistake. I love the way he plays his cricket. I’m a cricket tragic, the way he fields and the way he bats.
“Has he got areas to get better at in? Yes. Has Steve Smith? Has Cameron Bancroft? Has every single person in Australian cricket? Yes.
“They have all got areas [to improve] in … if they meet the standards of the Australian cricket team, of course they will be welcomed back.”
Langer, who was also adamant that those involved in Australian cricket “should be very proud of our history”, was the easy choice for the role, Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said.
“He’s undoubtedly the right person to lead the Australian cricket team going forward,” he said.
“We’ve got huge confidence in him and we wish him well for the role.”
Langer’s first assignment with the team will be in a five-match one-day international series in England in June.