JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Australia captain Tim Paine believes a change in culture for a team “with our heads in the sand” will be the biggest positive to take from an otherwise dismal 3-1 test series loss to South Africa.
The side have been rocked by a ball-tampering scandal in which former captain Steve Smith, his deputy David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft were sent home after the third test and handed hefty bans.
But that was not the only issue for a team who had five players sanctioned during the series and they have vowed to turn over a new leaf following the resignation of coach Darren Lehmann, viewed as central in forming a boorish culture.
“It’s an exciting time, we are going to have a new coach and a new brand and culture,” Paine told reporters after the 492-run fourth test loss on Tuesday, the fourth largest defeat in terms of runs in test history.
“With the guys being out at the moment, there is also a chance for others to step up and play an extended period of test cricket.
“There are lots of positives and messages that we can take out of it (the series) and it’ll be good to get home, have a rest and think about it.”
It was evident that the Australian public backlash following the ball-tampering furore was partly fuelled by unhappiness about a team who felt they could act with impunity.
“We have to listen,” Paine said. “We have potentially had our heads in the sand over the last 12 months that if we continue to win we can act and behave how we like and the Australian public will be OK with that.
“We have found out in the last month that the Australian public don’t like the way we go about it, so it is pretty simple, we have to improve our behaviour.”
Paine has tried to implement that new culture, starting before the fourth test with a handshake between the teams, and actively trying to show more respect to opponents on the field.
The outcome was mixed, with South Africa admitting surprise at the “docile” nature of the Australian team who succumbed to such an embarrassing defeat.
“It was evident in this match that we have changed somewhat and that will continue to happen. We’ve got a new coach coming in at some stage and he will have a huge say on how that is,” Paine said.
“We have to find the fine line between being really respectful of the opposition and also being at a level that is really competitive, as you should be in test cricket.
“It is going to be a different style than a lot of the guys are used to, but I think we will find it pretty quickly.
“A lot of us have to step up and take the slack, but I think Australia has got the talent, we just have to harness it properly and if we do we will be OK.”
Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond