Langer lets loose on cricket ‘soap opera’

Justin Langer is expected to make changes for the fourth Test.
Justin Langer is expected to make changes for the fourth Test.

JUSTIN Langer admits nobody is banging the door down as he mulls how to fix both Australia's top six and a national batting crisis.

Langer has added Marnus Labuschagne to what is now a 14-man squad for the fourth Test against India.

Labuschagne is expected to take Mitch Marsh's place in the XI that folded in Melbourne, where the tourists retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy by snatching a 2-1 series lead.

Peter Handscomb may also earn a recall for the SCG series finale, although Langer's description of Aaron Finch as "a really good player" and "great in the team" suggests the under-fire opener will be spared the axe.

However, Finch could yet be demoted down the order as Langer and Tim Paine discuss the best plan for Australia to avoid suffering their first Test series loss at home to India.

Regardless of how much Langer tinkers before the fourth Test starts on Thursday, it's clear there are big batting problems that extend beyond the squad.

"Try being a selector at the moment," Langer said. "We've got to be careful not to reward poor performances but … it's not as if the guys are absolutely banging the door down.

"Most of our batters knocking on the door are averaging in the 30s (in the Sheffield Shield)."

Usman Khawaja is the only Australian to score a Test century in almost 12 months. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)
Usman Khawaja is the only Australian to score a Test century in almost 12 months. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

Usman Khawaja's century in Dubai remains the only Test hundred scored by any Australian in almost a year, a horror slump that highlights how much the team relied on banned superstars Steve Smith and David Warner.

The top six's collapses of 3-29 and 3-13 in Australia's first innings at the MCG effectively ended their hopes of defeating India in the series.

Steve Waugh and Shane Warne headline the greats to have condemned Cricket Australia for devaluing grade and Shield cricket, a topic covered in The Ethics Centre's independent report.

Langer acknowledged recent results suggest domestic players are not being adequately prepared to make the step up.

"The art of batting, we've got some work to do," Langer said. "Whether it's the system … whether it's something we've got to change in our psyche, I'm not sure. It's something everyone is looking at."

Pat Cummins and Aaron Finch. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Pat Cummins and Aaron Finch. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

FINCH 'WORKING HARDER THAN EVER'

The former Test opener, renowned for putting a high price on his wicket, seemingly remains adamant Finch can make the cut in Test cricket after a couple of sloppy dismissals.

Langer noted Finch was having a lean run but also highlighted a pivotal 112-run opening stand in Perth that delivered Australia its first Test win since the Cape Town cheating scandal.

"He's working harder probably than he's ever worked … he'll be better for this period," Langer said.

"He's the only guy playing all three forms of the game (for Australia) … he's got to somehow recharge his batteries over and over and over again. It's a great challenge."

BANCROFT INTERVIEW ADDS TO 'SOAP OPERA'

Langer was asked about Cameron Bancroft's explosive Boxing Day interview, where the banned opener discussed David Warner's role in the ball-tampering scandal.

Langer labelled the interview a "distraction", adding the continued headlines added to the "soap opera we're in every day".

"I feel like the director of a soap opera," Langer said. "I honestly do."

Bancroft was out for two in his return to domestic cricket in the Perth Scorchers' defeat against Hobart in the Big Bash on Sunday night.

Warner and Steve Smith are eligible to return on March 29.

"Coaching is about man management and looking after people, caring for people, and that was just another distraction last week," Langer said.

"There's a really good process in place that we're going to go through to get the boys back in the team, I liked seeing Cameron play last night."

News Corp Australia

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