LONDON: Australia captain Tim Paine believes training at Lord’s has fuelled the team’s “dream” of appearing in next year’s World Cup final at the ‘home of cricket’.
The reigning world champions have been at Lord’s this week ahead of a one-day international series against England.
The five-match contest, which gets underway across London at The Oval on June 13, will mark the first time Australia have been in international action since March’s ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
The fall-out from one of the most humiliating episodes in Australian cricket history led to year-long bans for former captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner, as well as a nine-month suspension for batsman Cameron Bancroft, who applied sandpaper to the ball during the third Test in Cape Town in a flagrant breach of cricket’s rulebook.
Darren Lehmann subsequently resigned as team coach, with Justin Langer succeeding his fellow former Australia batsman.
It was at Lord’s where the now 33-year-old Paine made his Test debut in a ‘neutral’ match against Pakistan in 2010.
“I haven’t been here for about eight or nine years but one of the first things we (the squad) did was a slow lap together and let it all sink in, the history and tradition,” Paine told reporters at Lord’s on Wednesday.
“We also talked about the World Cup final here in 12 months’ time as a dream for our guys to work to,” the wicket-keeper explained.
– ‘Best place on earth’ –
Langer, who knows the ground better than most Australians, having also played for Lord’s-based county side Middlesex, added: “This is the best place on earth. Literally.
“Mate, what a place. Lord’s is the best place on earth. What about lunch (here)?”
But Australia, who won the 1999 World Cup final at Lord’s, may need to improve their ODI form if they are to reach next year’s showpiece match and be crowned champions for a record-extending sixth time.
England, who beat Australia 4-1 in an ODI series ‘Down Under’ earlier this year, are currently top of the 50-over rankings, with Langer’s side fifth.
As well as Smith and Warner, Australia will also be without injured first-choice fast bowlers Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummings and Josh Hazlewood for the upcoming series.
They will look to the likes of Travis Head and D’Arcy Short to fill the run-gap, while pacemen Kane Richardson, Andrew Tye, Jhye Richardson and Billy Stanlake stake their claims.
– ‘Fill the void’ –
“How do you replace David Warner’s and Steve Smith’s runs and experience?,” asked Langer.
“But the reality is that’s where we’re at. If we’re going to come and win the World Cup here next year we’ll need unbelievable depth in Australian cricket.”
Paine added: “We can win this series. It’s an opportunity for other guys to come in and fill the void.
“Not having our big three bowlers here is an opportunity for guys who are probably a bit better than people around the world realise.”
Meanwhile, Paine, who took over as captain in South Africa, said Australia were prepared for taunts from English crowds following the ball-tampering scandal.
“We expect that when we come to England all the time,” he said ahead of Thursday’s tour-opener against a Sussex side coached by former Australia fast bowler Jason Gillespie.
“We cop a little bit of ribbing and this time we come with a bit more of a reason for them to do it,” Paine added.
“We’re looking forward to it, to be honest.”
But the Tasmanian stressed: “We won’t be overly nice. We’ve still got to have that hard edge. We’re here to win.”
And Langer was confident the team could put the events of Cape Town behind them.
“South Africa was a really hard time for Australian cricket, individually and collectively,” he said.
“One of our values is being the number one learners. As long as we learn from what happened and move forward, that’s all we can do.
“There’s no-one in this room who hasn’t made a mistake in their life.
“The boys made a mistake and as long as we get better for it we’ll be OK,” Langer insisted.