Langer confident Smith and Warner ready to 'face the fire' in England
LONDON – Australia coach Justin Langer believes no amount of crowd abuse Steve Smith and David Warner may receive while on tour in England can compare to what they've already experienced while serving year-long bans for ball-tampering.
The star batsmen are back in the Australia fold ahead of a lengthy tour of England which includes both the World Cup and Ashes series.
Warner was widely seen as the instigator in the "sandpapergate" scandal during a Test against South Africa in Cape Town that saw novice opener Cameron Bancroft – banned for nine months – deliberately trying to alter the condition of the ball in the field while then captain Smith turned a blind eye.
But having witnessed the angry reaction in Australia to Smith and Warner's conduct, Langer said it would be hard to imagine any English taunts could be worse.
"Well we can't control the crowd. What I do know? It may heat up, but it won't be any hotter than it was 12 months ago," said Langer at an Australia training session on Saturday.
"I've never seen anything like it so the boys are very well prepared," added the former Australia opener, who took over as coach after predecessor Darren Lehmann resigned in the aftermath of the scandal.
"They've paid a heavy price and we're expecting always to come here and to face the fire and we're ready for that."
Smith's return to Australia duty this month, albeit in three unofficial World Cup warm-up matches at home to a New Zealand XI, included unbeaten innings of 89 and 91.
By contrast, Warner could only manage a top score of 39 but Langer was encouraged by what he'd seen from both batsmen.
"I watched Steve Smith batting against New Zealand, he's literally a master of the game, so it's nice to have him back," he said.
"He's just shadow batting the whole time...He loves batting, he's shadow batting on the sand, he's shadow batting in the shower – I'm not joking!"
As for Warner, Langer added: "Dave's got that look on his eye, he's really hungry, he's a great player as we all know, he's so dynamic, he brings so much energy, and that's what we ask from our players.
"They've had 12 months to have a good think about a mistake they and the team made. I'm sure they'll be better people for that."
Australia may be the reigning World Cup champions but an England side top of the one-day internationals rankings will start the tournament as favourites.
Last year saw England compile an ODI world record total of 481 for six against Australia at Trent Bridge and the familiar foes will meet again for the first time this season in a World Cup warm-up at Southampton on May 25.
England took an unbeatable 3-0 lead in a home ODI series against Pakistan with a three-wicket win at Trent Bridge on Friday and Langer said: "They're playing brilliant cricket, aren't they?
"There's always good rivalry between us and it's going to be nice for us to see how we're at against the best team in the world."AFP