Australia 2.0: Victory in Perth gives affirmation to the Langer way

"Cringeworthy". "Commercially driven tripe". "Sham". "Yuck".

They were some of the responses a Cricket Australia executive received after posting pictures of the Australian team's dressing room at Optus Stadium in early November.

Australian cricket was still reeling from a damning cultural review into the game. Chairman David Peever had just quit. High-performance boss Pat Howard was to follow in the next few days.

Little wonder punters were aghast when they caught eye of the term "elite honesty". Just as you cannot be half-pregnant, you're either honest or you're not, they thought.

Victory in sight: Australian captain Tim Paine leads his men off the field on day four.Credit:AAP

Seven weeks later, the sentiment around the national side is much more positive. So what has changed?

Speak to anyone within the Australian camp and they will probably say not much other than they won.

After all, seven of the 11 who defeated India this week were part of the side which secured the most unlikely of draws in Dubai in Paine's first tour as Test captain.

The values the team hold and live by, which includes the maligned "elite honesty", are still the same but perceptions around the country have shifted.

Victory has given affirmation to the path taken by Justin Langer, one which was met with scorn only weeks ago.

In a year marred by scandal and bloodletting, this has been the best week Australian cricket has had for a long time.

An inexperienced team with a rookie captain had beaten the top-ranked team led by the most famous player in the world. It could well be portrayed as a David and Goliath moment, though David only has himself to blame for being cut down to size.

This is Australia 2.0 – a team that is learning it does not need to be mean, or cheat, to win.

If Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft return to the fold, they will re-enter a dressing room vastly different to the one they left in Newlands.

Those close to the team noted how surprised players were that the Australian public had turned on them after the events in South Africa.

Players might have had enough of talking about the past but they genuinely want those who jumped off to climb back on.

Brains trust: Tim Paine and coach Justin Langer.Credit:AAP

Jolimont has framed its marketing this season around reconnecting with fans through slogans such as "It's your team" and "We are Australia's cricket team".

The Australian sports public, however, are not naive, which explains the cynicism towards pledges of "elite honesty". They wanted to see action.

Insiders cannot recall the last time an Australian side spent an hour on the field signing autographs amd posing for selfies – the 2018 fan's version of an autograph – as they did on Tuesday. Previous sides, it was noted, were more focused on enjoying the win in the sanctuary of the dressing rooms.

The Herald also saw squad members respond to every request from fans the following day at Melbourne Airport.

Today's stars are are fulfilling more media duties, though there is now an obligation to do more with two TV rights holders, who have paid $1.182 billion, and three radio partners.

It has worked both ways. TV mics captured the line – "I know he's your captain, but you can't seriously like him as a bloke" – which has, in the eyes of many fans, boosted Tim Paine's credibility as captain.

They now see him as a leader undaunted by how he arrived in the job and who is prepared to stand up to the best player in the world.

Smile: Mitchell Starc takes a selfie with young fans after Tuesday’s clinical finish in Perth.Credit:AAP

"I think Tim Paine was a low-profile Australian captain a month ago, I now think of him as a high-profile Australian captain for all the right reasons," Fox Sports head of television Steve Crawley said. "People know him."

Though he came through the pathway system, Paine, more than most in his team, has an insight to life outside the "gilded bubble" – the phrase used in the Longstaff Review to describe the "arrogant, entitled and self-centred" male players who had lost touch with lower levels of the game.

Paine, whose career was blighted by numerous finger injuries, was on the verge of retiring last year after being unable to command a regular place in Tasmania's side.

Since assuming the captaincy, Paine has made vital runs, highlighted by his match-saving innings in Dubai, and become in Langer's eyes the "best wicketkeeper in the world".

His team have also displayed that toughness, in Adelaide when they defied the odds to get so close in their run chase, in Dubai and now in Perth.

Former captain and CA board member Mark Taylor, however, says it would be selling the rest of the team short to say they were moulding themselves in Paine's image.

Taylor, who was part of the board which ratified the current leadership, sees a side that is more comfortable in their own skin to the one which lost their way last summer and in South Africa.

His views are reflective of many within the game. They are asking how the banned players will fit back in and how they will embrace the values of the new side.

"I think a lot of people have been playing maybe the way they haven't wanted to play," Taylor said.

"They've almost felt they had to become more verbally intimidating rather than just being intimidating because they're good players.

"I look at Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Marsh, they're not big talkers but they're good cricketers who enjoy a contest and enjoy the game of cricket.

"I think the team's playing the way they want to play at the moment. It doesn't mean they're kittens and say nothing but they play the way they think the game should be played.

"If you asked them here they'd be very comfortable with the way they're playing now."

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