Australia coach Justin Langer talks ball-tampering and sledging on eve of England ODI series

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Justin Langer speaks of his devastation at Australia's involvement in ball-tampering, and the culture change he and new captain Tim Paine aim to instil.

Justin Langer has spoken of his devastation at Australia’s involvement in ball-tampering earlier this year, a scandal that led to his appointment as head coach following the resignation of Darren Lehmann.

In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports Cricket – which you can watch in full by clicking on the video at the top of the page – Langer and newly-appointed captain Tim Paine talk candidly about their roles in overseeing a culture change in the Australian team.

Speaking to Nasser Hussain, Langer said: “There were too many whispers in the last 12 months or so about the abuse on the field, or dare I say, the side playing like spoilt brats.

“When that moment [the ball-tampering] happened, as a past player and lover of Australia, I nearly died. And when I saw it was Cameron Bancroft, my heart nearly came out of my chest, I couldn’t believe it.”

Despite that, Langer has stated his Australia will continue to sledge opposition teams as they look to play hard, but fair, cricket, starting with their five-match ODI series against England.

Watch the first ODI live on Sky Sports Cricket from 12.30pm on Wednesday, where you can also watch Hussain’s interview with Langer and Paine in full. Read on for more…

England vs Australia

June 13, 2018, 12:30pm

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Nasser Hussain: [To Langer] As a coach, at Western Australia, did you see anything from a distance about the culture of the Australian side that made you think ‘that’s not right’?

Justin Langer: The whispers were there, weren’t they Nass? 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 last 12 months or so about the abuse on the field, or dare I say, the side playing like spoilt brats.

When that moment [the ball-tampering] happened, as a past player and lover of Australia, I nearly died. And when I saw it was Cameron Bancroft, my heart nearly came out of my chest, I couldn’t believe it. So you’ve got to wonder why it gets to that point? But it has happened now and we’ve got to make sure we learn from it and get better from it because we can’t shy away either.

2:26 Ahead of Australia's ODI series with England, we revisit the ball-tampering scandal, which led to bans for Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.

Hussain: They were some very dark days in South Africa: tell us how a cricket team gets into that situation?

Tim Paine: I don’t think it goes back to any one individual, but not living by our behaviours over a sustained period of time – not one year, two years, but probably even longer than that. It meant that something like Cape Town was probably going to happen, due to brushing over little things. But, the little things can turn into big things when you take your eye off the ball. It was a really difficult time.

Hussain: [To Langer] The side of your era played it hard – you had some mongrels; you weren’t the most liked side. What was the difference between your side and Steve Smith’s?

Langer: I think Steve Smith maybe just wasn’t strong enough in his leadership. But, he loves the game of cricket – he practices harder than anyone I’ve ever met – and he is is a very very nice young lad. There’s no doubt about that.

David, he has got that – you used the word, mongrel – bit of bite in him. And if you look back at the team of my era, some of our guys had that too. Matty Hayden played really hard cricket, Andrew Symonds at times played really hard, Steve Waugh. He didn’t have to say much, he’d just have to look at you and you’d be nervous. The question I’d ask with David is how he got so angry? They are the things that interest me as a coach, how do you get to a point where you almost explode?

Hussain: Warner has been a serial offender: can a leopard like him ever change his spots? Would you welcome him back in this Australian team?

Paine: Yes, absolutely. David is someone that personally when I’ve played with him, I’ve loved playing with him. He brings a real energy, a real passion, certainly some aggression at times but I think that’s when he’s at his best. But yes, 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. Yes, I can’t wait to have him back playing, as a batsman in particular but he’s also got a fantastic cricket brain, he loves the game and sets a really high standard for everyone else to follow.

Hussain: You’ve said that you’re going to carry on sledging, that there’s a difference between banter and abuse. But, in the laws of the game, there is no room for sledging – so why should an Australian cricket team take it upon themselves to say it’s fine?

Langer: It depends how you define sledging. In Australia, it’s almost a term of endearment. 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.

But, in the laws of the game does it say it has to be silent on the cricket field? As a person who has been in the game for a long time, like you, I would hate to see the game of cricket played in complete silence and no words were spoken – you’d lose a lot of the atmosphere and what it’s all about. You can do it with a smile on your face, you can do it by staring but there has got to be some talk on the cricket field surely?

Watch the first ODI between England and Australia from The Oval, live on Sky Sports Cricket & Main Event from 12.30pm on Wednesday.

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