“Everyone talks about sledging, but there’s a difference between banter and abuse. And abuse is no good.” © Getty
Tim Paine, the Australia captain, and Justin Langer, the head coach, said that the national side will look to strike the right balance between being respectful and staying competitive on the field, when they take on England in a five-match ODI series and one-off T20I this month.
In the aftermath of the ball-tampering scandal that rocked the Australian side in South Africa, leading to the resignation of Darren Lehmann as the head coach, alongside suspensions for Steven Smith (12 months), David Warner (12 months) and Cameron Bancroft (9 months), the think-tank has been under severe pressure to lay down a ‘blueprint’ for players’ behaviour.
“We’re really clear on what our values are and what our behaviours and our expectations are,” Langer, who replaced Lehmann as the Australian coach, said at Lord’s on Wednesday (May 6). “We’ve just got to create the environment where it’s a great change room, where their expectations are high. All culture is, is behaviour. We’ve just got to make sure our behaviours are really good on the field and off the field. If we’ve got good behaviours, then we’ve got a good culture and environment for all our young blokes to thrive and become as good players, and as good people, as they can become,” he added.
Langer, on his part, observed that there is a difference between just banter and abuse. “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. Call it banter, sledging, whatever you want. Everyone talks about sledging, but there’s a difference between banter and abuse. And abuse is no good. Doesn’t matter if you’re off the field or on the field, there’s no room for abuse anywhere. But there’s plenty of room for banter, or what we call sledging. It’s a fun part of the game; it is actually part of the game.”
Paine, who took over from Smith as the captain of ODI and Test side, too echoed similar views, but at the same time noted that they will continue to play with the trademark ‘competitive edge’ that one associates with Australian sides. “We want to be more respectful in the way we go about it,” said Paine. “We don’t think we’re going to change the way we play in a really competitive spirit.
“Certainly, we’re not going to be silent out on the field, we’re going to be speaking, we’re going to be trying to put pressure on opposition teams and players as we normally doBut there’s got to be a respectful element to it. We know what’s right and we know what’s wrong. You’re going to hear us talking through the stump mic and see us talking on the ground. But it’s up to me and Justin and our senior players that we stay on the side of banter and never go to abuse. While I’m captain and Justin’s coach, it’s never going to be accepted,” he said.
Langer and Paine also expect players to cop plenty of verbal barrage from English fans. In the just-concluded Leeds Test between England and Pakistan, a group of fans dressed up as Australian players were seen trying to emulate the infamous sandpaper incident, when the camera was zoomed on them.
“Even if we were so nice, everyone’s going to still think we’re a bunch of rough-head Australians. That’s just how it’s going to be, mate. We’ll just go about our business really well. We’ll behave well on the field and off the field and we’ll still be called sledging Australians. It’s been happening for the last 30 years,” Langer said. “We expect that when we come to England we cop a little bit of a ribbing, and this time we come with a bit more reason for them to do it. We’ve spoken about it, we’re looking forward to it to be honest. It just adds a little extra spice, and will make it all the more memorable when we go home,” Paine reckoned.
Australia will start their tour with warm-up games versus Sussex and Middlesex before locking horns against England in the first of five ODIs at The Oval on June 13.