Australia will be keen to strike the right tone from the outset when they go public at Lord’s at the start of their one-day international tour.
When new captain and coach Tim Paine and Justin Langer address the media on Wednesday, they will be speaking for the first time in the UK since the ball-tampering fiasco which brought about their appointments.
Previous incumbents Steve Smith and Darren Lehmann will be thousands of miles away when Paine and Langer undertake a series of high-profile interviews.
Smith, like his former deputy David Warner and Test opener Cameron Bancroft, is serving a cricket Australia ban after admitting his part in a plot to alter the condition of the ball in the Cape Town Test against South Africa in March.
Bancroft was deployed with sandpaper to do so, and was caught red-handed by television cameras covering the match, while Warner and Smith were complicit.
Captain and vice-captain were stripped of their positions, and punished with 12-month bans – while Bancroft’s suspension will last for nine months.
Lehmann resigned as coach in the aftermath of a sorry saga which rocked world cricket. It left Australia wringing hands in regret and vowing to address underlying cultural problems in the national team.
It is a story which will not go away quickly, and is sure to dominate a three-week mid-summer tour which starts with a day-night warm-up match against Sussex at Hove on Thursday.
Echoes of the controversy have been a near daily occurrence over the past two months – and even as Australia were making their way over to England, via a visit to the First World War battlefields of western France and Belgium, Smith was speaking again about the personal impact of his own behaviour.
During a school visit in Sydney on Monday, he recalled his experiences after having to fly home from Australia’s tour of South Africa in disgrace.
“To be honest, I probably spent four days in tears,” he said.
“I was really struggling mentally and I was really lucky that I had some close friends and family members that I could speak to at all hours of the day.”
Paine and former Test batsman Langer have both spoken several times already about a new era for their team, and acknowledgement that they will be ‘copping’ inevitable flak from English crowds this summer.
Similar pronouncements of intent and expectations will doubtless be on the agenda on Wednesday lunchtime too.
But in the hallowed surroundings of Lord’s, they will be that much more resonant as Australia begin a short tour which may prove to be as much about PR management as success or otherwise on the pitch.
That Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur has a reputation for being a strict disciplinarian is no secret. Over the years, the likes of Australia’s Shane Watson and even Umar Akmal have learnt that fact the hard way.
Judging by Arthur’s latest comments following Pakistan’s defeat to England in the Headingley Test, a few more players could come under the firing line of the South African.
Pakistan, who had beaten the hosts convincingly in the first Test at Lord’s, slumped to a defeat by an innings and 55 runs in the second Test. That turnaround hasn’t gone down too well with the head coach.
“We need to dish out a couple of hidings but it’s how they grow. The talent we have in that dressing room is phenomenal so we’ve just got to get more consistency and that’s what we’re striving for,” Arthur told Sky Sports after the huge defeat.
Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed led a relatively inexperienced Pakistan on the tour, with as many as seven players who took the field at Lord’s playing Test cricket in England for the first time in their careers. As such, the Pakistan coach believes that the team will learn from its inconsistencies.
“We’ll have a hard discussion about it, but as long as that dressing room has learnt from it. We’re a young team and hopefully we can grow and grow quicker. Inconsistency is one of the things that comes with a young team, however hard that is for all of us to take at the moment,” he said.
The performance of the bowlers on the tour was more than satisfactory, but the fact that not a single Pakistan batsman notched up a century has stood out sorely for Arthur.
“The key thing that we’re going to discuss is that a number of our batsmen in this series got starts, but we didn’t get a hundred. And for us to grow as a team we need someone in the top six getting hundreds consistently,” Arthur explained.
Rashid, who had a highly successful campaign with the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL, is currently the No1 ranked T20I bowler in the world. Having picked up 21 wickets in this year’s IPL, Rashid is none too perturbed about making the transition to the red ball.
“Being a Test cricketer is not a lot different to playing ODIs and T20s,” the Afghan teenager was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.
“I have done well in whatever four-day opportunities that I have got. If I make changes in my bowling thinking about the Test, it will not be good for me. I will bowl with the same speed I have been bowling so far,” he stated.
“I have to make sure that I don’t panic. I know there will be a phase where I won’t pick up a wicket for 20 overs. And I could pick up two in two overs. It is Test cricket,” Rashid added.
The Afghan sensation is currently with the rest of the squad in Dehradun where they are taking on Bangladesh in a three-match T20I series. Such is the life of a professional cricketer that Rashid has not been to his home in Afghanistan in over a year but he remains determined to bring joy to his troubled homeland.
“I have not gone home in a year. I miss my family and friends a lot. It also hurts a lot to hear about blasts back home. Even in the IPL when there was a blast in my hometown, I was really upset. I lost a friend in that,” Rashid said.
“Another one of my friend had called me that day and asked why I was not my usual smiling self in the game.
“So, all these incidents do affect me a lot but I try to keep myself in the best possible frame of mind to give a good performance on the field so that the troubled people back home get something to cheer about.”
The one-off Test between India and Afghanistan gets underway on June 14 at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru.