Australian cricket coach Justin Langer has pleaded with English fans not to boo returning players David Warner and Steve Smith.
More than 14 months on from ball-tampering saga, Smith will play his first official game back against Afghanistan on Saturday, while Warner must only overcome a glute strain to play in Australia’s Cricket World Cup opener in Bristol.
The pair were jeered in last Saturday’s warm-up win over England, with some among the crowd even booing when Smith brought up his century.
Langer knows more is likely to follow an he wants fans to show respect.
“They are human beings, and that’s the truth. That’s where I find it hard. I am a dad, and I have got kids. A lot of the time, players feel like they are my kids,” Langer said.
“You know, you feel for them personally. They are going to have to have thick skin.
“But I think it is really important that people show some respect as well. Because they are humans, they are really good cricketers.
“They made a mistake. They have paid the price for it. Big price actually. I feel for them as people more than anything else.”
Former England great Sir Ian Botham has already warned both players to expect a barrage of abuse from fans.
“The Barmy Army have already done about eight or nine songs – I think David Warner might feature a fair bit in those,” he said.
— England's Barmy Army (@TheBarmyArmy) May 8, 2019
Langer said he would not raise the issue again with the pair before Australia’s tournament opener in Bristol. Nor would did he worry if it would hurt their cricket.
But asked if he would be disappointed if the players were jeered, Langer said: “I will be disappointed any day if any cricketer is booed on a cricket ground.
“Regardless of what country they play for. It is not the spirit that any of us like to see.
“Obviously it hurts because I have got an emotional attachment, and personal attachment, to our players. But it is never a good look, is it, when that happens?”
One thing Langer isn’t concerned about, though, is their ability to score runs, after Warner averaged above 50 in his myriad cricketing appearances during his ban.
Despite having one of the more unorthodox techniques in world cricket, Smith also looks to have found his rhythm again with 394 runs at 131.33 in Australia’s six warm-up games.
“I was never, ever worried about (Smith)’s batting,” Langer said.
“A bit like David. I was not worried about their batting. I was wondering how they would come back into the team, having to deal with (crowds).
“Steve Smith has a master mind, he thinks about batting all the time. I was never worried about his batting.”