Captains, openers & a change in culture - Five things for Australia coach Langer to address
Australia have a new coach in Justin Langer, who has the unenviable job of leading the team in the wake of its darkest hour.
Langer will start his reign with the ball-tampering scandal that marred the series against South Africa and saw captain Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft suspended still fresh in the memory.
With just over a month to go until Australia take on England in an ODI series, we underline five tasks that should be high on the to-do list of the new boss.
CHANGE THE CULTURE, REGAIN THE FAITH
Rejuvenation and rehabilitation are what many believe the Australia team needs in the wake of the tempestuous South Africa series. A move away from the win-at-all-costs mentality to an approach akin to that of New Zealand, who are the fourth-ranked Test team and are regularly praised for the manner in which they go about the game, has been mooted.
The challenge for Langer will be to take the emphasis away from sledging and still maintain the competitive fire that has made Australia such tough opponents. If he does so, he will be able to regain the trust of those supporters dismayed by events in South Africa.
DECIDE ON CAPTAINS
Tim Paine filled the role of Test skipper following Smith's suspension and was open about wanting to play a role in taking the team forward from the scandal. However, at 33 he seems unlikely to be considered a long-term solution, while Langer must also decide on a limited-overs captain with Smith and Warner out of the fray.
SETTLE ON AN OPENING PAIR
Minus one of the best openers in world cricket as well as the promising Bancroft, finding stability at the top of the order is a must for Australia. Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns were the top two in the final Test in South Africa but only Renshaw was awarded a national contract last month.
The pair helped Queensland to triumph in the Sheffield Shield, Renshaw top-scoring in the competition with 804 runs, but South Australia's Jake Weatherald, Victoria's Marcus Harris and Daniel Hughes of New South Wales could all be candidates after similarly impressive performances.
TAKE A PUNT ON PONTING
New coach Justin Langer on the biggest challenge facing the Aussies. pic.twitter.com/6EBGg9EPeW-- cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) May 3, 2018
An assistant during the recent tri-series with New Zealand and England, Ricky Ponting has been talked up as a possible Twenty20 coach for Australia. For now Langer is in charge across all three formats but surely working with two members of arguably the greatest Test team of all time would be a boon for a side in significant need of direction.
ADDRESS RECORD OVERSEAS
Australia were dominant no matter where the venue in the era enjoyed by Ponting and Langer, but the current crop have found results away from home difficult to come by. They have not won an away series since a 2-0 victory in New Zealand in 2015-16, and you have to go back to the 2011 success in Sri Lanka for their last victory on the subcontinent. The disparity between home results and those on their travels is something Langer must improve.