Australia are starting to play in the image of their coach.
The grit expected when Justin Langer answered Australia’s SOS eight months ago has been revealed at times during the four Tests of his tenure.
Australia batted for 139.5 overs to save the first Test against Pakistan in Dubai.
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They lasted just 20 overs fewer in the second innings against India in Adelaide this month before falling 32 runs short of a victory that barely appeared possible from midway through the first day.
The signs are good and victory in the second Test will validate the path and hard work under-taken since Langer took over in April. But Australia are a long way from being a dominant team.
Beating India on a bouncy and unpredictable Perth surface reveals as much about the visitors’ flaws as it does about the home team’s strengths.
Langer knew he was in for a long haul when he took on the job.
He recently compared it to his rebuilding task at WA which he said took two years before he was comfortable with the direction of the State program.
Langer had five pillars when he started at WA and the same themes echo through his expectations with the national teams.
His blueprint demands that players work hard, speak honestly with each other, celebrate success, earn respect back and have respect for the past.
Elite honesty might have been the awkward mission statement displayed on Cricket Australia’s change-room décor but the values Langer wanted that term to represent are on clear display.
There is captain Tim Paine, the player Langer yesterday compared to Allan Border, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting as the world’s best players in their specialist discipline at the time they were in charge of Australia.
Paine’s maturity, calmness, understated excellence and willingness to scrap for his team in a combative yet respectful fashion have already won the support of a nation eager to move beyond the ugly pit-bull approach of recent years.
Apart from his former State captain George Bailey, it is difficult to identify an Australian cricketer with a better spread of those various attributes.
There is Aaron Finch, a white-ball specialist who may be remade as a red-ball opener. Aghast at Finch’s poor fitness and constant smoking a couple of years ago, Langer’s measured persuasion has helped the Victorian take the first steps towards a substantial Test career.
There is Marcus Harris, a technician in Langer’s mould who already looks at home at international level.
Harris had to score Sheffield Shield runs by the thousand to earn his baggy green cap, a method familiar to Langer himself, and has already batted for eight hours in his four starts at the top of the order.
The two Indian openers, with 94 Tests and 17 centuries between them, have spent an identical period in the middle.
There is grit in this Australian team, Langer-grade grit, and it has not needed sandpaper to supply it.
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