Australian cricket coach Justin Langer has spoken of his devastation at the team’s involvement in the ball-tampering scandal and the culture change he aims to instil ahead of their five-match ODI series against England.
In a candid interview with Nasser Hussain on Sky Sports Cricket in Britain, Langer, alongside newly-appointed captain Tim Paine, said he “nearly died” when the events in South Africa unfolded earlier this year.
“When that moment [the ball-tampering] happened, as a past player and lover of Australia, I nearly died,” Langer said.
“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 past 12 months or so about the abuse on the field, or dare I say, the side playing like spoilt brats.
“When I saw it was Cameron Bancroft, my heart nearly came out of my chest. I couldn’t believe it.”
Despite the scandal, the head coach expects Australia to continue to sledge opposition teams while playing hard but fair cricket, with its first test coming on Wednesday against England at The Oval.
Langer said there would always be room for sledging in the sport, adding he “would hate to see the game of cricket played in complete silence”.
“In Australia, [sledging] it’s almost a term of endearment,” he said.
“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.”
Asked whether Steve Smith and David Warner – who are banned from national and state cricket teams for 12 months – would be welcomed back into the side under his captaincy, Paine said they “absolutely” would be.
“David is someone that, personally, when I’ve played with him, I’ve loved playing with him,” he said.
“If we can have David back, understanding the way we want to play our cricket going forward, then there is no reason that he won’t be back and be really successful.
“Same with Steve. I’ve been in regular contact with Steve since this has happened. He’s been really supportive, I bounce things off him most days. I can’t wait to have him back playing.”