Australia have clearly toned down their sledging since a ball-tampering scandal broke, South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said Friday, but urged them not to totally sacrifice their confrontational approach.
Coach Justin Langer and Test skipper Tim Paine have both pledged to change the win-at-all-costs culture that was rampant when Australian players tried to cheat in Cape Town this year.
Their attempt to alter the ball with sandpaper rocked the game, led to bans for Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft and saw a clean-out of executives at Cricket Australia.
Du Plessis, who has just led the Proteas in three one-dayers against Australia, said there had been a marked change in their on-field behaviour and the baiting of opposition players had receded.
“The series in South Africa (earlier this year) was like that, especially that first Test in Durban. It was a feisty one,” he said in Brisbane ahead of a one-off Twenty20 on Saturday.
“Then comparing that to now, you can see they’re obviously trying to minimise that a bit more, and let the cricket do the talking.
“I think that’s the way the game’s moving anyway. These days, chirping’s not as big a part of cricket. Obviously the stump mics, TVs, there’s a lot of emphasis from the ICC that it needs to be a gentleman’s game.
“There’s a lot of kids watching the game… so chirping, swearing, all that stuff has been really toned down, so I think it’s a general thing that’s happened in the game.
“But if you compare the two series then yes, there’s been a big difference in the way that they talk on the field.”
One of Australia’s strengths in the past had been their aggressive and “in-your-face” approach, unsettling batsmen and bowlers with their back-chat.
Since moving away from that and adopting a “be nice” policy, their results have nosedived.
Du Plessis, who once referred to the Australians as being “like a pack of wild dogs”, said he revelled in the confrontation and urged them not to totally abandon traits that had brought them so much success.
“I’ve always believed that you must never take away your uniqueness as a strength. If your strength is to be in guys’ faces, then you must use that,” he said.
“Obviously there’s laws now where you can’t cross that line, but if you’re a personality that requires that to get the best out of yourself and therefore perform the best for the team, then by all means do that within the boundaries that are allowed.”