Justin Langer says Australia played like ‘spoilt brats’ under Steve Smith, whose leadership ‘wasn’t strong enough’.
In an interview with Sky Sports TV, Langer criticised the way the team had approached the game even before the ball-tampering incident during the third Test against the Proteas in Cape Town.
‘The whispers were there,’ Langer said. ‘Once upon a time, the opposition didn’t like us because we played really good, hard cricket – we were very skilful and we won a lot of games.
‘It’s easy to dislike the opposition if they’re good, but there have been too many whispers in the last 12 months or so about the abuse on the field, or dare I say, the side playing like spoilt brats.
‘So you’ve got to wonder why it gets to that point? But it has happened now and we have got to make sure we learn from it and get better from it because we can’t shy away either.’
Before the ball-tampering incident, there had been a stairwell row between David Warner and Quinton de Kock at Kingsmead. Nathan Lyon also dropped the ball onto AB de Villiers in celebration after running him out.
Langer said Smith’s captaincy had played a part in that poor behaviour.
‘I think Steve Smith maybe just wasn’t strong enough in his leadership,’ he said. ‘But he loves the game of cricket – he practises harder than anyone I’ve ever met – and he is a very, very nice young lad. There’s no doubt about that.’
Current skipper Tim Paine implied that it would be unfair just to blame Smith.
‘I don’t think it goes back to any one individual, but not living by our behaviours over a sustained period of time – not one year, two years, but probably even longer than that,’ he said.
‘It meant that something like Cape Town was probably going to happen, due to brushing over little things. But the little things can turn into big things when you take your eye off the ball.’
Smith and Warner are serving one-year bans for the incident, with the latter accused of being the ringleader who pressured Cameron Bancroft into tampering with the ball.
‘He [Warner] has got that – you used the word, mongrel – a bit of bite in him,’ said Langer. ‘The question I’d ask with David is how he got so angry?’
Langer’s first game as coach was on Wednesday when Australia lost to England by three wickets at The Oval.
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