Australia coach Justin Langer is left fuming over the barrage of 'ludicrous' criticism levelled at star batsman Steve Smith and captain Tim Paine. The 50-year-old revealed he personally spoke to two former England cricketers - Michael Vaughan and Darren Gough - for the same.
A day after the high voltage Sydney Test, Steve Smith expressed his shock and disappointment over claims on his gamesmanship. Following a viral video, Smith was accused by fans and former cricketers of ‘cheating’ and scrubbing off Rishabh Pant’s guard with his boots.
However, Langer defended Steve Smith and said the right-handed batsman was just shadow batting. The Australia coach told reporters on Wednesday:
“It was absolutely ludicrous. We’ve laughed about how all he (Steve Smith) thinks about is batting. He was just standing there, thinking about batting. He is 100 per cent innocent in this. Give me a break; I’ve never heard so much rubbish in my life,” Langer said.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan and pacer Darren Gough, who claimed Steve Smith's scuffing action was ‘plain cheating’, were vocal about the former Australian skipper's antics on the field.
Lashing out at the criticism from the Englishmen, Justin Langer added:
“I’ve actually spoken to Darren Gough about it and rang him last night. I spoke to Michael Vaughan as well; I thought he was out of line actually. You get it from (some of the critics), but I don’t expect it from (someone like Vaughan). I know he makes a living out of making those sorts of comments, but I thought he was out of line."
“Everything said about Steve Smith is absolutely ludicrous ... The wicket at the SCG was like concrete, he would’ve needed 15-inch spikes to do what people were accusing him of doing and messing up Pant’s guard,” Langer added.
Justin Langer defends Tim Paine
Tim Paine’s verbal assault on Ravichandran Ashwin was also criticized, with the Australian captain later apologizing for the same
But Justin Langer backed Paine, and credited him for leading the cultural overhaul in the Australian side after the 2018 ball-tampering scandal.
“He wasn’t forced to make an apology (to Ashwin). He felt remorseful, and he came to us and said he wants to get on the front foot. I really respect him for it. For a bloke that’s barely put a hair out of line, for three years as captain of Australia, he got a bit frustrated for two minutes. The bloke is human, give him a break,” Langer said.
Paine dropped three catches – two of India’s top-scorer Rishabh Pant – on the final day of the Sydney Test. Those missed opportunities played a key role in hampering Australia’s chances of winning the game. The hosts now need to win the final Test in Brisbane to get their hands on the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.