Vice-captain Steve Smith praised Justin Langer for his recent efforts to rein in his intense style but did not say whether he thinks the coach should have his contract renewed.
Smith was part of a small group of senior players who contacted Cricket Australia executives about Langer’s coaching style last year, which led to a series of frank conversations with the coach about not micromanaging every last detail of the team.
Over the past few months, Langer has adopted a less is more approach and delegated more duties to his assistants.
Smith, who will be part of Australia’s team looking to go 4-0 up in the Ashes series when the fourth Test gets underway on Wednesday at the SCG, said Langer’s new methods were paying dividends although he refrained from commenting about whether the coach should have his contract renewed.
His deal ends after the Pakistan tour in March.
“The last couple of months have been fantastic. I think he’s given everyone real clarity around how the guys want to go about their business, sort of letting us own our space and how we want to prepare and things like that,” Smith said on Monday.
“He’s allowed the other coaches to take a bit more of a role. It has been a good environment.
“I’m not the one to make those decisions [about contract renewals] but I feel like the last couple of months there’s been a great vibe and the guys have obviously had a lot of success, winning the [T20] World Cup and winning the Ashes here so we’re feeling good.”
CA executive general manager of national teams and high performance, Ben Oliver, said on Friday that senior players would be consulted before a final decision is made on Langer’s future.
Smith’s immediate focus is on scoring runs and helping the hosts continue their dominance over England.
By his own world-class standards, Smith is in the midst of his leanest century lull since his first Test ton in 2013.
He has scored just one Test century in his past 13 Tests, which is his worst return since he notched his first ton for Australia eight years ago, in his 12th match in the baggy green.
The 32-year-old was among the runs two Tests ago in Adelaide, where he was dismissed for 93, but his 131 against India at Sydney last summer remains his only ton in the 12 Tests since the 2019 Ashes. He tore the old enemy apart with 774 runs in four matches, averaging 110.57 as he amassed three centuries and as many half-centuries from seven innings.
Smith fell for 16 late in the morning session on day two of the Boxing Day Test, when he inside-edged veteran seamer James Anderson onto his stumps. According to him, the MCG conditions were as difficult for batters as any he had faced before.
“I have probably never seen any seam movement like that in my life. The ball was seaming as anywhere in my career on any wicket,” he said
“The ball was seaming as far as I’ve seen in my career on any wicket. It was never gonna be easy for the batters.”
Smith said the new leadership set-up in which he acts as deputy to Pat Cummins has worked well in the two Tests they’ve worked together, and that the new skipper had been great at being open to feedback but ultimately making his own decisions.
Fast bowler Josh Hazlewood looks on track to return from a side strain, but an announcement on the final XI is unlikely to be made until Tuesday at the earliest.
The MCG’s dazzling debutant Scott Boland or Mitchell Starc, if the team decides he needs a rest, could make way if Hazlewood is declared fit.
After seeing a green tinge to the SCG pitch when he inspected the centre wicket on Monday, Smith hopes the ground staff make good use of their lawnmowers before the start of play.
Sydney has been criticised in recent years for becoming too similar to other pitches in the country, and Smith, a lapsed leg-spinner, wants it to revert to being Australia’s uniquely turning wicket.
“If it starts with a lot of grass on it, it doesn’t seem to break up that much. But if they take all the grass off it’s got the ability to break up a bit more and the footholes come into play a lot more,” he said.
“Looking at this wicket at the moment there seems to be a fair amount of grass so I dare say it may not take too much spin late in the game which was the old traditional SCG that we used to see, which I would like to see personally.”