Justin Langer asked his former boss – the WACA chief executive Christina Matthews – for his old job back. The new Australia coach was joking of course, during a draining week of meetings and discussions about how to revitalise cricket in the country in the wake of the Newlands ball-tampering scandal, before making his first address to the squad to depart for England on Monday.
Among his key messages to the team, shorn of Steven Smith and David Warner due to their suspensions for what occurred in Cape Town, was that “if you’re not a good bloke, that’s what people remember”. Langer said that the missing names of Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft from the pool of potential players had reminded him of the size of the task at hand.
“I’m looking forward to getting on the plane and starting to think about cricket to be honest,” Langer said in Brisbane. “There’s been a lot of information. I got here [to the National Cricket Centre] about 7am on Tuesday, had my first selection meeting, got home about 8pm, sat on my chair and I texted Christina Matthews my old boss and said ‘am I too late to get my old job back?’ It seemed like a good job, I had my feet under the table, I knew the lay of the land, it was pretty cruisey, but this has certainly been a big eye opener, which I’m really looking forward to.
“We’ve got to aim to be No. 1 in professionalism in the world, we’ve got to be No. 1 in honesty, that’s a really important value, and we’ve got to be No. 1 in humility. It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got, or how many games or how many runs, if you’re not a good bloke, that’s what people remember. So humility is important. Our mateship is really important, sticking together. So they’d be the main values at this stage.
“When I had the first selection meeting the other day and I saw you take those three names out, it’s a bit of a shock to the system, and it’s not even a cliche, but it’s a very good opportunity for some blokes. It’ll be great for us in the future to make sure our depth is strong.”
Australia are expecting plenty of hostility from English crowds and media on their first tour since Newlands, something Langer said was part of what would be a long process to restore the team’s reputation. “Expecting to cop plenty from the crowds and the media, but that’s England,” he said. “Even if you’re winning all the time and you’re squeaky clean you still cop it, so I’d say we’ll cop it just as much as usual, but that’s ok.
“It won’t take one tour or one year. It will take one behaviour, one thousand behaviours, one million behaviours to win back respect. If we behave well on and off the field, we will earn some trust and respect back. The Australian public loves the Australian cricket team but there is more to it than just being good cricketers.”
As for the way he would address Australia’s recently demonstrated deficiencies in the 50-over format, Langer said that he wanted to get away from talk of copying the advances made by other nations. “I’m hearing about mimicking England’s style and mimicking New Zealand’s style,” he said. “We’ve got to mimic Australian style, because we should be so proud of what we’ve achieved in our past. We’ve got our way of doing things and we shouldn’t shy away from that.
“Can we get better in one-day cricket? Absolutely, our ranking shows that, we haven’t been great in one day cricket, we’ve just got to play it better. For me it’s really clear, you need really good athletes, they’ve got to be able to field well, got to be really fit, because they’ve got to run hard between the wickets, the little basics. We’ve got to take responsibility with the bat, we’ve probably got away from that the last year or so, our ranking suggests that. Ultimately it’s about what we are doing as a team, not the individuals.”
Langer said he did not expect the wicketkeepers Tim Paine and Alex Carey to both be chosen in the same team, and flagged that there were numerous players in the mix – including Travis Head, D’Arcy Short and Marcus Stoinis – to partner Aaron Finch at the top of the batting order. He also spoke warmly of the recent progress made by the Test opener Matt Renshaw for Queensland and Somerset.