Aggressive & chatty on field as player, Langer the coach promises no abuses

Australia coach Justin Langer has promised his side won’t let up on intensity when the much-anticipated all-format series against India starts from Friday. He, however, has assured that there will be no room for abuses although there will be plenty of banter with a dash of humour.

Langer was answering a question from IANS on Wednesday morning about whether the Australian sides in recent times have lost the edge at home by not indulging in sledging and on-field chatter as compared to the sides during his playing days.

Steve Smith, had on Tuesday, said that playing in franchise leagues like IPL, has made it impossible to indulge in sledging nowadays. Smith had said that an opponent in one series could become your team-mate in a franchise league within a few months.

“From my experience as an ex-player I feel that people were nervous coming to Australia not because of the chatter. It was because they were coming up against great players and competition. If you are facing Glenn McGrath or Shane Warne or if you are bowling against Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist or Ricky Ponting, I think that makes you more nervous than a few words spoken. That has been my experience,” said the former Australia opener who played 105 Tests between 1993 and 2007 and was part of one of the greatest Australian sides known for its on-field aggression as well as great cricket.

The former left-handed batsman was part of the ring of close-in fielders who were blamed by former South Africa skipper Graeme Smith for ‘below-the-belt’ verbal assaults in 2002 even though then Australia skipper Steve Waugh had been justifying those tactics, saying that they were needed for “mental disintegration”. It was during Langer’s playing days that McGrath had an ugly, unmentionable spat with West Indies’ Ramnaresh Sarwan.

Despite Langer’s claims, it was Waugh’s team that crossed the limits. Things, however, changed since Australia’s tour of South Africa in 2018 when the team was caught in a ball-tampering scandal, and Aussie leadership including Smith and David Warner were banned for a year. An attempt to change the culture was made.

The 50-year-old admitted that things have changed over the last couple of years and added that fans will get to see plenty of banter with sense of humour rather than abuses.

“In terms of the current Australian players, anyone who has watched our cricket (for the last) couple of years, we have talked about our behaviour on and off the field. There is no room for abuses and plenty of room for banter and having fun and having competitive instinct. I have always thought that, as a player and as a coach. I think it is healthy. We’ll see great cricketers go up against each other,” said Langer

“There are going to moments of intensity like you see in all sport. But there is no room for abuse. The last time India were here, there were great examples, captain Tim Paine – he has got a sense humour,” he added while referring to the words spoken by Paine to India stumper Rishabh Pant which were caught by the stump microphone. Paine, on one instance while wicket-keeping and in a bid to distract Pant, had invited the Indian batsman to stay back in Australia, baby sit and play Big Bash.

Langer further said that they don’t mind India skipper Virat Kohli’s behaviour on the field.

“We love what Virat Kohli is doing. There was humour and sense of theatre to it all (the last time). At the end of the day, I can say that the pressure on cricket field has got nothing to do with the words spoken. It is about the person you are up against. We are lucky that in this series there is going to be a lot of great cricketers and that’s enough intensity, let alone any words spoken.”

India and Australia are slated to play three ODIs, three T20Is and four Tests starting Friday at the Sydney Cricket Ground.