Australian captain Tim Paine surprised his English counterpart by suggesting the teams shake hands before the game. (Reuters: Andrew Boyers)
Test cricket great Steve Waugh says the current Australian team has undergone a cultural shift since the sandpaper cheating scandal in South Africa in March last year.
- Former test great Steve Waugh says the culture in the Australian cricket team has changed
- He credits coach Justin Langer and captain Tim Paine with the change
- Waugh says the game has never seen a player like Steve Smith before
“You see now a very different team,” he told 7.30.
“They’re courageous on the field, they play with conviction, they play with purpose.”
Australia coach Justin Langer has been instrumental in changing the culture of the team. (Reuters: Craig Brough)
Touring with the side in a mentoring role, Waugh points to the influence of coach Justin Langer and captain Tim Paine in making the change happen so quickly and smoothly.
“I don’t think you’ll see this side crossing the line perhaps in the same way as what happened in Cape Town. And Justin Langer is going to take a lot of credit for that, as does Tim Paine,” he said.
“Justin’s always been that type of guy, that he’s got very strong values.
“He’s a bit of a father figure. As a coach he’s also very tough as well, so people know what to expect.
“They respect him, they know he’s going to be hard and fair.”
During his playing days Waugh was renowned as an uncompromising competitor.
He famously referred to his tough approach to the opposition as “mental disintegration”.
But he denies that approach fed a culture the resulted in last year’s ball-tampering scandal.
“Mental disintegration to me is disorientating the opposition through continuous pressure by playing positive cricket, exuding good body language and working together as a team,” he said.
“I never ever played the game of sport with a win-at-all-cost mentality.
“I was taught from a very early age by my parents to always play it hard and fair.
“If you lose, walk away, congratulate the opposition and try and do better next time.”
In the current side, Waugh is noticing a character not often associated with recent Australian teams.
“The team being humble is really important,” he said.
“Recognising that fans are important, that sponsors are also important, to the way you deal with fans after match, the way you conduct yourself on and off the field — that’s something this side has been very good at doing so far.”
Steve Smith’s return
While Waugh was a tough critic of the team’s behaviour when the cheating incident occurred, he had every faith in ex-captain Steve Smith’s return to the team.
“One minute your captain, the next minute you’re just a player in the team, with all eyes in the world on him, so it was an incredible performance,” he said.
Smith’s twin tons at Edgbaston were compared with Waugh’s century in each innings performance against England at Old Trafford in 1997.
Waugh believes it is Smith’s careful planning and preparation for every scenario which makes the player a threat to his opposition.
“It’s a bit like a computer,” he said.
“He sort of analyses all this information, then he spits out the answer he needs — and more often than not it’s right.
“I don’t think the game has seen anyone quite like him before.”
Smith’s achievement were all the more remarkable because of the hostile reception he was receiving from the English crowd.
But Waugh is unconcerned by the frequent booing, which he saw merely as “English spectators being very patriotic”.