Justin Langer launched the first tour of Australian cricket’s new era by explaining that he likes to sledge his own daughter. In the course of a long story in which the new coach tried to draw the line between “banter” and “abuse”, Langer said “in Australia sledging is actually a good word”, “a fun part of the game” and said he loves to sledge his own family.
“If I play Uno with my daughter there’s lots of banter, we sort of sledge each other but we don’t abuse each other,” Langer said. “And when I play golf with my mum and dad we sort of sledge each other. But there’s a difference between banter and abuse, and abuse is not good. There’s no room for abuse anywhere.”
Australia’s captain, Tim Paine, clarified that his team are still going to sledge England but they will do it more politely. “We’re certainly about banter and making the opposition uncomfortable, making them feel our presence, but the abuse is no longer part of the way we go about it.”
The team “want to be more respectful”, said Paine on the eve of a one-day friendly at Sussex, “but certainly I’m sure you’re going to hear us talking through the stump mic and see us talking on the ground”. The captain added: “But it’s up to me and Justin and our senior players to make sure that we stay on the side of banter and not abuse, because when I’m captain and Justin is coach that’s not going to be acceptable.”
All of which, it has to be said, rather misses the point that it was not the team’s banter that got them into trouble in South Africa last March so much as their blatant cheating. Paine described the upcoming one-day international series as a chance to “show the cricketing world where we have made some changes”, but then said that fixing the team culture did not need “huge changes”, that it was just a matter of “crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s on some things that had started to slip over a period of time”.
Paine said it was simply a question of “living our values and living our behaviours and keeping everyone in our group, players and staff, accountable”.
Back on semantics, Langer explained that “culture is the buzzword at the moment”. He added: “Cultures are just behaviours, so we’ve got make sure our behaviours are really good on and off the field. If you’ve got good behaviours then you’ve got good cultures, and an environment for all our young blokes to thrive and become as good players and as a good people as they can become.”
He does not go in much for written codes of conduct. “We can put [out] all the fanciest mission statements and values, we can have all the fanciest posters up on the wall, but if you don’t live them then they’re like toilet paper, mate. That’s the truth.”
Paine said the team are “looking forward” to the stick they will get from the English fans during the ODI series. “We’ve spoken about this, we think it’s going to be pretty full-on. We expect that when we come to England we cop a bit of a ribbing, and this time we come with probably a bit more of a reason for them to do it,” he said. “We’re looking forward to it to be honest. We’re excited about it and that probably just adds a bit of extra spice and I think it will make it all the more memorable when we go home.”
Australia have brought in Ricky Ponting as an assistant coach for the series. The former captain has twice been an assistant coach for Australia’s T20 side and has just finished his first IPL season with the Delhi Daredevils.
Langer also had a good word for James Sutherland, who announced on Wednesday that he was resigning after 17 years as Cricket Australia’s chief executive. It means Australia have lost their captain, coach, and CEO in the past three months. Their head of integrity, Iain Roy, who led the investigation into the ball-tampering scandal, has also been made redundant.
The former head coach Darren Lehmann, the man who said he was “ultimately responsible for the culture of the team” caught tampering, has now taken on a new role developing young players at the national academy.