Justin Langer believes if the Australia players were to react in the same manner Virat Kohli celebrated the wicket of Aaron Finch they would be considered “the worst blokes in the world”. Langer also fended off criticism from Sachin Tendulkar over Australia’s slow batting in the first innings.
Langer’s comments showed the level of scrutiny that surrounds Australia on two distinct levels: their style of play and their on-field behaviour. Amid all the swirling fallout from the Newlands scandal, the question is hovering: can the Australian team win without resorting to the sort of behaviour that led to a widespread public backlash? When Fox Sports replayed Kohli’s celebration after Ishant Sharma bowled Aaron Finch, Langer’s answer suggested the team is still trying to find the right balance.
“You love seeing that passion in sport, don’t you?” said Langer. “Mind you, I think if we did that at the moment we’d be the worst blokes in the world, but it’s a fine line isn’t it? That’s the truth of it. But I love seeing the passion, I mean that’s great passion but, as I said, there’s a fine line isn’t there?”
In an interview to be broadcast later on Saturday on Fox Sports, Kohli says he had sympathy with Steven Smith and David Warner with what they had to go through after the ball-tampering.
Langer, speaking as rain delayed the start of play on day three, defended his players for their scoring rate and suggested allowances should be made for youth and inexperience.
As Australia battled to 7 for 191 on the second day on what has proved to be a difficult pitch for batting, Tendulkar tweeted, “#TeamIndia should make the most of this situation and not lose their grip. The defensive mindset by the Australian batsmen at home is something I’ve not seen before in my experience. @ashwinravi99 has been very effective and has played a role to help the team be on top, for now.”
“I saw the tweet from Sachin saying he’s never seen an Australian side bat so defensively,” Langer told SEN. “That said every time he’s played Australia he had Allan Border or David Boon, guys who have played 300 or 400 Tests between them. We’ve literally got kids when it comes to Test cricket playing. They’re just finding their own skin, they’re fighting their backsides off, not only to help us win the Test match, but to find out what Test cricket’s about.
#TeamIndia should make the most of this situation and not lose their grip. The defensive mindset by the Australian batsmen at home is something I’ve not seen before in my experience. @ashwinravi99 has been very effective and has played a role to help the team be on top, for now.
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) December 7, 2018
“You’re always looking to score, every one of them is looking to score, but they bowled really well, Ashwin bowled well, we’ve got to find different ways of playing him, that’ll come. But it’s a very different team this batting order than what we’ve seen in past Australian teams.”
“After the day’s play I knew there’d be a lot of comments about, like Sachin’s comments, I knew that’s what they’d say,” Langer told Fox Sports. “And if that starts affecting our players then that’s going to really hurt us so the key is to get as close to the mark as we can and regardless of whether it’s no more runs or go ahead of them it’s going to be key how we bowl in the second innings.”
Langer did concede that Australia could have been more attacking when R Ashwin was bowling. The offspinner took three wickets – all of them left-handed batsmen – while keeping one end tight during a 22-over spell.
“Maybe Ashwin we could have been a little bit more pro-active against,” he said. “I think particularly our lefties we need to have methods of scoring on both sides of the wicket. I think Travis did it really well I think Marcus did it well in his first Test match so there’s areas we can get better at. It’s the first innings of a four Test match series so and they’re the number one ranked Test team in the world but I’m definitely not going to get caught up in this we were too slow, we weren’t attacking enough because we saw with some fantastic Indians the same thing happened.
“One thing I learned from Allan Border 25 years ago is there’s a lot of time in Test cricket, you have to be patient. In Test cricket we’ve probably gone a bit away from it actually over a bit of time, but the great players are patient, they bat for a long time and that’s what we can do. I think we get a bit preoccupied with how T20 goes and to an extent one-day cricket, but in Test cricket there’s so much time, there’s five days to bat. Particularly in a long series like this we’ve got to wear down the opponent, so we probably missed an opportunity to do that.”
Melinda Farrell is a presenter with ESPNcricinfo
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