New Australian cricket coach Justin Langer has left the door open for the return of banned players Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft in the future.
Two hours after being named as the replacement for Darren Lehmann as Australian coach, Langer was asked at his inaugural press conference about the future of the three men who were banned as a result of the ball-tampering scandal that overshadowed the end of Australia’s tour of South Africa.
“They’ve made mistakes. We have all made mistakes and we can all get better,” he said.
“David Warner made a mistake. I love the way he plays his cricket. I’m a cricket tragic, the way he fields and the way he bats, they are things, I guess to less trained eye, you might not respect that as much, but I love the way he plays his cricket.
“Has he got areas to get better at in? Yes. Has Steve Smith? Has Cameron Bancroft? Has every single person in Australian cricket? Yes.
“They have all got areas in we keep helping and mentoring them and if they meet the standards of the Australian cricket team, of course, they will be welcomed back.”
Langer was asked about the issue of sledging by the Australian team, which was a focus of much criticism in the aftermath of the South African tour.
He referred to his own career, saying there were two instances he saw during his playing days where “it got really personal and it crossed the line”.
“I think back and there was one with Glenn McGrath and (Ramnaresh) Sahwan in the West Indies,” he said.
“That was a very sensitive time for Pigeon at the time, but it probably crossed the line and there was consequences for that.
“We’ve always played hard … I think some of the best banter is amongst each other to try to get the opposition thinking about other things.
“That’s mental toughness, it is about being 100 per cent focused on the next ball. If you’re worrying about what you just said to me, there is a distraction.
“But we all know that what the behaviour, the acceptable behaviours are.
“There is a difference between competitiveness and aggression and we’ve got to be careful with that.”
— Darren Lehmann (@darren_lehmann) May 2, 2018
Cricket Australia earlier announced Langer would replace Darren Lehmann, who left the post following the end of the South Africa tour.
Speculation about his replacement has centred around Langer, and it proved to be correct.
Langer will take over on May 22, beginning a four-year term that will take him through home and away Ashes series, a Cricket World Cup in 2019 and the ICC World Twenty20 the following year.
“I’m a little bit nervous but I’m very excited, so it’s a really big day,” he told the ABC after the announcement.
“When I think back to my first Test match with Bobby Simpson the coach, Allan Border and some absolute legends of the Australian cricket from the journey from there to now, it’s a huge highlight for me and my career.”
Langer said he found out last Saturday after speaking to Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland on Friday morning.
“I’ve known for a few days. So anyone who knows me [knows] I’m no good at not being honest and I’ve had to keep it under wraps, so it hasn’t been much fun for the last few days.”
‘We firmly believe Justin is the right person to lead this team’
Sutherland said he was “thrilled” to appoint Langer to the role.
“Whilst Darren Lehmann was not due to complete his term until next year, we have had a succession plan in place for this role for some time,” Sutherland said in a statement.
“In addition to professional development opportunities, this plan has included several coaches stepping into the head role to relieve Darren at times, and to also provide support roles, including Justin, and forms part of our long running succession planning process.
“The plan has allowed us to consider several worthy candidates, but Justin was the clear standout, particularly based on his recent coaching and player development achievements.
“We firmly believe Justin is the right person to lead this team and have huge confidence in what he will bring to the role.
Justin Langer is the new Aussie cricket coach … no question he will have a positive impact … Concerns me already about next Yrs Ashes !!
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) May 2, 2018
Langer has been the coach of the Western Warriors and the Perth Scorchers Big Bash League sides since 2012.
His successes include three Big Bash titles with the Scorchers, and two domestic one-day titles with the Warriors.
The West Australian native has been involved with the Australian national team previously in a coaching capacity, spending three years as an assistant coach and stepping in as an interim head coach twice — for an ODI series in the West Indies in 2016, and for a T20 series against Sri Lanka last year.
Langer played 105 Tests and eight one-day internationals for Australia, scoring more than 7,500 runs as a Test opener.
Langer to oversee new era for troubled Australian team
The new coach will have plenty of challenges ahead of him as the side rebuilds and rebalances following the disastrous tour of South Africa.
Without Smith, Warner and Bancroft, the batting line-up will need adjusting.
Matt Renshaw, Joe Burns and Peter Handscomb were recalled for the final Test of the series in Johannesburg, but a dispirited team lost by 492 runs to the Proteas, giving little insight into whether the recalled batsmen were the way of the future.
New captain Tim Paine is already on the record saying the Australians need to find more respectful ways of putting opposition sides under the pump rather than relying on sledging.