Australia will tone down their sledging under new Test captain Tim Paine as the team try to repair their damaged reputation following the ball-tampering controversy in South Africa which led to three players being handed significant bans.
Paine was named the new Test captain when Steven Smith was suspended for the final Test in Johannesburg and Smith was subsequently handed a 12-month ban along with David Warner while Cameron Bancroft was given a nine-month penalty.
Paine’s first proper chance to build a new-look side, both in terms of personnel and style, will come against Pakistan later this year but he is already thinking about the direction he wants to take the team. Cricket Australia have instigated a culture review following the recent events, but discussions about toning down on-field behaviour which had brought significant criticism before the Cape Town controversy had started when Smith was in charge.
“I think there’s always a time and a place to talk to your opposition, but I think what’s said and how it’s said will be very different going forward,” Paine said. “A lot of this stuff we were actually starting to speak about under Steve already. A lot of the players had their head around the fact we needed to change the way we play. Some of those conversations were already being had.
“I’m really looking forward to playing that role and winning back the trust and respect of our fans and the Australian public first and foremost. That’s a really exciting thing for our playing group.”
Dean Elgar, who was part of the South Africa side throughout the series, admitted it was an odd atmosphere during the final Test of the series as a flat Australia were crushed by 492 runs and he hoped that Paine would be able to put his stamp on the captaincy.
“Joburg was very strange, my first encounter against Australia that I wasn’t told my future,” Elgar said. “But saying that it’s part of the game, they’d been through so much leading up to the game, and it was sad to see what they were going through. No side needs to go through what they experienced, and knowing the characters in that changing room, I’m sure they can bounce back
“I’d like to believe that’s the way they want to play their cricket, and if that’s their challenge that they have to deal with then we’ve got to respect what their new captain wants. I know Tim, I’ve played a lot of cricket against him, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to try to implement those kind of phases that they need to start off a new slate.”
Another part of the fallout to the affair was Darren Lehmann stepping down as coach. Justin Langer has been tipped as favourite to take over but Cricket Australia have said the process will be started following a forthcoming board meeting. There will also be the need for new one-day and T20 captains in time for the tours of England and Zimbabwe which start in June with Paine only taking on the Test role.
“We’ll have a new coach going forward, we’re going to have some time off where guys can take stock and think about the way they want to play,” Paine said. “Certainly, playing international cricket you’ve got to be as competitive as you can be. But we’ve got to look at different ways of doing that and more respectful ways of putting opposition teams under the pump.
“Part of what we spoke about a lot is playing on skill, not emotion. I think in the last couple of years at times we’ve been a touch too emotional and got carried away on that side of the game. That’s a small thing we can improve on.”
Paine also said he has kept in contact with Smith since he was banned and will continue to do so during his time out of the side.
“I have a role to play of winning the back the trust and faith of our fans and the Australian public. I have spoken to him on the phone and via text. He’s someone who I certainly will be speaking quite closely to on how we go about it and keeping him in the loop. All three of them are going through a tough time and our thoughts are with those guys and we would love them back in the team.”
However, in the longer term Paine believed the Australian game could recover from the controversy without lasting damage as he looked ahead to a home season that would include visits by India and Sri Lanka.
“I don’t think it’s as disastrous as it’s been made out,” he said. “We’ve had this incident which has brought everything to a head. During the Ashes there wasn’t a lot said about our culture and looking back it’s just a few little things we can tweak and do a little bit better as a team.
“If we do that then I think the Australian public will jump back on board pretty quickly. That’s one of our main aims for this coming summer.”