MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The return of Steve Smith and David Warner to the Australia squad has generated excitement, not tension, among the playing group but the pair will need to learn “humility” after losing their leadership roles, coach Justin Langer said on Friday.
Former captain Smith and Warner were selected in Australia’s World Cup squad last month after their ball-tampering bans expired but they will play under skipper Aaron Finch and a new leadership group.
The duo, whose reintegration was smoothed with a visit to the squad in Dubai last month, returned to training with their team mates in Brisbane on Friday.
“There’s no tension, honestly. We’re so excited to have the boys back, we’re just so excited about playing cricket,” Langer told reporters at Allan Border Field.
“It’s been a big buildup to it. It’s a bit like facing fast bowling, isn’t it? You worry about it until you get out there and it’s not as bad as you thought it was.
“It’s the same with the boys coming back in.”
Smith has been banned from leadership posts until March 2020 while former vice captain Warner, who took the most blame for the Cape Town scandal, has been permanently blacklisted.
Langer said Smith and Warner’s experience made them natural authority figures and that their leadership would be “crucial” for success on and off the field.
However, they would face a challenge adjusting to their diminished standing, he added.
“We’ll draw on their experience on and off the field and we would be absolutely crazy not to,” he said.
“There are certainly going to be challenges for both of them, though.
“When you’ve come from a titled position of captain, there’s going to be a certain degree of humility that comes with that.
“But one of our really strong values is humility so it will be a great opportunity for them to develop that.”
FORM AND CONFIDENCE
After two mostly dismal years in one-day cricket, Australia head into their World Cup defence with form and confidence after upsetting India 3-2 in an away series and whitewashing Pakistan 5-0 in the United Arab Emirates.
Langer was cagey about where Smith and Warner might line up in a batting order that is now spoiled for choice thanks to the solid form of Usman Khawaja in India and the UAE.
He said pace spearhead Mitchell Starc, who was awarded the 2015 player of the World Cup, was in “pristine” condition as he works his way back from a pectoral muscle injury.
However, paceman Jhye Richardson was under a bit more of a cloud as the bowler races to recover from a dislocation of his right bowling shoulder.
Langer said he expected England crowds to get stuck into Smith and Warner and the whole Australia team over the ball-tampering affair, but they were “big boys” who could handle it.
He said he would personally steer clear of riling the ‘Barmy Army’, having been mocked in a song about his height by the travelling English fan group in the past.
Langer had called the Army a “disgrace” and their fans “about 50 kilos overweight” after they repeatedly called “no-ball” following deliveries by Australia’s express pace bowler Brett Lee during the 2002 Boxing Day test in Melbourne.
“Well, then they start singing the song about the seven dwarfs,” he said.
“So you don’t mess with the Barmy Army ... Their songs are humiliating.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford
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