Sledging is good, but abuse crosses line, says Aussie coach


LONDON: Australia coach Justin Langer insisted ‘sledging’s a good thing’ as the team prepared to face England in their first series since March’s dramatic ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

Langer, however, stressed that ‘banter’ would not be allowed to descend into ‘abuse’, as captain Tim Paine promised Australia ‘won’t be silent’ during the upcoming five-match One-day International series.

Former Australia captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner were banned for a year for their part in the ball-tampering incident during the third Test in Cape Town.

Meanwhile batsman Cameron Bancroft — who applied sandpaper to the ball in a clear breach of cricket’s rulebook — was given a nine-month ban by Cricket Australia.

The trio were all sent home in disgrace, with wicket-keeper Paine taking over as captain in South Africa.

Darren Lehmann then resigned as coach and was replaced by Langer.

After the ball-tampering scandal, there were concerns that sledging or verbal taunts had contributed to a toxic atmosphere between the Australia and South Africa teams.

But Langer said that, as far as he was concerned, sledging was just another word for banter.

“In Australia sledging’s a good thing: if I play Uno [a card game] with my daughter we sledge each other,” Langer told a news conference at Lord’s on Wednesday.

“If I play golf with my parents, we sledge each other. There’s a difference between banter and abuse. There’s no room for abuse anywhere,” the former Australia opener, who played at Lord’s for Middlesex, added.

“Even if we were so nice people would think we’re a bunch of hard-edged Australians.

“We’ll still be called sledging Australians, it’s been happening for the last 30 years. So we’ll cope with that.”

Paine, alongside Langer at Lord’s, explained: “The thing we’ve spoken about is the difference between abuse and banter.

“We won’t be silent. We’re going to be speaking, trying to put pressure on teams as we usually do. But we have to be respectful.” Paine added: “I’m sure you’re going to hear us talking through the stump mic.

“But it’s up to me, Justin and the senior players to stay on the side of banter and never go to abuse.

“There’s no doubt our reputation took a bit of a battering in South Africa. Coming to England now with new faces, a new coach, just getting back into cricket is an opportunity for us to move on and show we’ve made a few changes.”

Australia, who are in England without injured frontline strike bowlers Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, as well as Smith and Warner, start their tour with a warm-up match against a Sussex side coached by former Australia fast bowler Jason Gillespie in Hove on Thursday.

Ricky Ponting, the former Australia captain, will join Langer’s backroom staff next week but the coach said it was ultimately down to the players to make good on the team’s new code of conduct.

“We have our values and our expectations, that’s really important,” said the 47-year-old Langer.

“But I’ve said this for 25 years, we can have the fanciest mission statements, but if you don’t live them, they’re like toilet paper mate. They are written down, but unless you live them they’re meaningless.”

He added: “We’ve just got to create the environment where it’s a great changing room.

“All culture is behaviour. Make it good on and off the field. If we’ve got good behaviour, then we’ve got a good environment.”

Australia, the World Cup champions, begin their series with 2019 hosts England, currently the top-ranked ODI side, at The Oval on June 13.