‘I nearly died’: Australia coach Justin Langer couldn’t believe extent of ball-tampering practice but admits some players were acting like ‘spoilt brats’
- Justin Langer says his ‘heart nearly came out of my chest’ during the scandal
- He says there were ‘too many whispers’ about dirty tactics for it to stay quiet
- Langer couldn’t believe Cameron Bancroft was part of the conspiracy to cheat
- But he admits the three players involved all deserved to be penalised harshly
Justin Langer has admitted he ‘nearly died’ over Australia’s recent ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town – and said it was only a matter of time before whispers that the team were playing like ‘spoilt brats’ became a reality.
Langer, who became Australia coach last month following the resignation of Darren Lehmann, also suggested Steve Smith hadn’t been a strong enough leader, adding that Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft deserved to be penalised harshly for their roles in ‘Sandpapergate’.
‘Once upon a time opposition players didn’t like us because we played good hard cricket,’ said Langer, who won 105 Test caps as an opener. ‘It’s easy to dislike the opposition if they’re good.
Justin Langer stands in the centre of Australia’s cricket team at the Oval in London on Tuesday
‘But there have been too many whispers over the last 12 months or so about abuse on the field or – dare I say – playing like spoilt brats. And there were too many whispers for it not to become real.
‘When that happened, as a past player and a lover of Australian cricket, I nearly died. And when I saw it was Cameron Bancroft, I was like, ugh! My heart nearly came out of my chest. I couldn’t believe it. You’ve got to wonder how it gets to that point. Maybe Steve Smith just wasn’t strong enough in his leadership.’
In a double interview with Sportsmail columnist Nasser Hussain on Sky Sports, Australian captain Tim Paine said the team’s behavioural problems had built up over a ‘sustained period of time – not one year, not two, probably longer than that’.
The Australia head coach is attempting to rebuild their reputation following a cheating scandal
Cameron Bancroft (left) and Steve Smith were both banned for ball tampering during a match
He added: ‘The result was Cape Town. It was probably going to happen. We brushed over little things, but we’ve spoken in the group about how the little things can become big things. It was a really difficult time.’
Meanwhile, the Professional Cricketers’ Association have demanded a ‘fair share’ for all players from the proceeds of the ECB’s five-year broadcast deal.
The board netted a record £1.1bn last summer after selling the rights to their new city-based tournament, but the PCA are pushing hard as they negotiate a new set of central contracts, plus funds for the 18 first-class counties.
Players’ union chairman Daryl Mitchell said: ‘You can’t have a situation where a huge amount more money comes into the game and the players do not benefit from it. We have made that very clear to the ECB and we are going to be very strong on this issue. It really is non-negotiable.’
David Warner was also banned for his role in their conspiracy to cheat against South Africa