While Australia have clearly toned down their sledging since a ball-tampering scandal broke, Coach Justin Langer and Test skipper Tim Paine have reiterated that the focus will not be on playing nice, but earning the respect of the public.
Langer and Paine have both pledged to change the win-at-all-costs culture that was rampant when Australian players tried to cheat in Cape Town this year.
Their attempt to alter the ball with sandpaper rocked the game, led to bans for Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft and saw a clean-out of executives at Cricket Australia.
Speaking ahead of the Test series against India, Langer said he is clear what he wants with this team.
“It’s a bit of a self-check thing for us, with everything that we’re doing whether it be on the field or off the field,” Paine told cricket.com.au.
“If you can ask yourself that question – ‘am I making my fellow Australians proud?’ – and answer that with a ‘yes’ then we’re on the right track. That’s what’s driving us at the moment,” he said.
Captain Paine who rubbished former skipper Michael Clarke’s suggestion that Australia will not win anything by being the nicest team in the world, said the idea was still to compete as hard as possible on the field.
“I just think it’s a bit of a no-brainer – it’s a show of sportsmanship, and that’s about it,” Paine said, regarding the pre-game handshake gesture that he introduced for the final Test against South Africa last April, when he took over from Smith.
“It doesn’t mean we’re going to be the nicest team in the world to play against, by any stretch of the imagination. We’re still going to be really competitive and really fierce out on the ground, but I think there’s just got to be that respect between the two sides,” he said.
“I think some people just took it the wrong way – they thought it means the Australian cricket team is going to be overly nice, or a bit soft, but it’s not that at all. It’s just about having respect for your opposition, respect for the game, but as soon as we cross the line we’re absolutely in it to win it.”
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis had earlier urged Australia not to totally sacrifice their confrontational approach. Du Plessis, who led the Proteas in three one-dayers against Australia, said there had been a marked change in their on-field behaviour and the baiting of opposition players had receded.
The cheating scandal that rocked the sport Down Under involved Australian players using sandpaper to alter the flight of the ball in a Test match against South Africa last March in Cape Town.
Coach Darren Lehmann quit in the wake of the controversy and then-captain Steve Smith, deputy David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft received lengthy bans. The affair also claimed the scalps of Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland and chairman David Peever.
The Australians have endured a dire run of form since losing 17 matches out of 24 in all formats, ahead of a home Test series against top-ranked India starting on December 6.