The new head coach of Australia’s men’s cricket team has vowed to earn back the public’s respect for the national side after they were embroiled in a ball-tampering scandal.
Justin Langer also said he would welcome back disgraced players Steve Smith, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner following their suspensions if they were “willing to meet the standards of Australian cricket”.
The former opening batsman was announced as Darren Lehmann’s successor on Thursday and will begin a four-year term in the job on May 22.
Lehmann stepped down from the role in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in March, which also led to the suspension of skipper Smith, vice-captain Warner and batsman Bancroft.
At his first press conference since being unveiled as the new coach, Langer said his focus would be on earning back respect for the team both on and off the field.
“To me that’s worth more than all the gold in the world,” he said.
“We look to encourage great cricketers but also great Australians and great citizens. Over the next four years, starting from day one, that’s really important.
“The public will be disappointed if we don’t play good, hard, competitive cricket, but that said, we can also modify our behaviours so it’s not angry or overly aggressive.
“There’s a difference between competitiveness and aggression, and we have to be careful about that.”
Asked by reporters whether he would consider allowing Smith, Bancroft and Warner to return to the team following their suspensions, Langer said he would not rule it out.
The 47-year-old, who played 105 Tests and eight one-day internationals for his country, added: “One of the key values for me is learning from the past.
“When I think about Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith, they love the game of cricket more than anyone I know and they are great kids. That’s why it was a surprise they made the mistake they did. We’ve all made mistakes.
“David Warner is the same. He’s a really great young bloke.
“This will be a really important message: if they are willing to meet the standards of the Australian cricket team, I think everyone has a place.”
But Langer also hinted that the loss of three of the team’s most crucial players could strengthen the side in the long term.
“It’s hard to replace those runs and that experience,” he admitted. “But it’s a very good opportunity.
“Over the next 11 months there’s a chance for some of the guys to take their opportunities.
“If you want to sustain success, you’ve got to have depth. The next 11 months give us the opportunity to even make us stronger.”
Describing Australians as people who “love to win”, he added that his players should abide by one simple rule: knowing the difference between right and wrong.
“We are competitors – that’s one of the great parts of being Australian,” he said.
“We are fighters. But ultimately everyone knows what right and wrong is. We get taught that since we were little children.
“If our players stick to that right or wrong then we will be OK.”