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Justin Langer has gone all new age during Australia’s rebuild

It is not exactly how you imagine the likes of Dennis Lillee, Rodney Marsh and Ian Chappell might have warmed up for a crack at the Poms with the World Cup at stake.


There, on the Edgbaston outfield before training on Monday, sat Aaron Finch and his side in a circle and barefoot in what looked more like a spiritual gathering than an international cricket team preparing for Thursday’s seismic semi-final against England.

It was left to Peter Handscomb to try to explain what might to the outside world have looked like a different and, dare it be suggested, quite eccentric way to warm-up.

‘It was just a moment to get a feel for the ground, literally,’ smiled the squad replacement who is now ready to be thrown into the semi-final for the injured Usman Khawaja. ‘It’s something the coach has done before at other venues for a bit of grounding.

‘You do a lap and you can see all the different views from the ground and where you might be fielding and it gives you an opportunity to take it all in before it starts on Thursday. Then we sat down and swapped some really good stories.’

But was it compulsory to abandon shoes and socks?

‘Yes it was and it was nice,’ said Handscomb. ‘You get a feel of the grass on your feet and feel the positive and negative energy flowing through and coming out of the earth.’

Excuse me? ‘It’s a nice feeling and you walk around with the group and have a bit of a laugh while you’re talking. It was just a nice moment.’

The only thing missing was the Australians running over some hot coals – or even some warm sandpaper – but it was no surprise they were having a giggle. We can only guess what they were laughing about but it did not need the clue from Handscomb as to the identity of the man who was behind this alternative training method. This had the stamp of Justin Langer all over it.

The Australia coach, who took over from Darren Lehmann in the wake of the Sandpaper-gate crisis, is best known as one half of the great opening partnership with Matthew Hayden, but he described himself as a ‘hippy’ when he took over this role.

This is a man with motivational messages scrawled all over his basement at home and such a proud Aussie he once insisted he took his baggy green cap to bed with him. When he succeeded Lehmann he talked about the need for ‘elite mateship.’

Now Langer has brought ‘grounding’, also known as ‘earthing’, to the Australian party as a way to try to stop Eoin Morgan and company from avenging their heavy group defeat at Lord’s and reaching their first World Cup final for 27 years.

His old mate Hayden, indeed, was known in his playing days to sit down barefoot near the pitch before a day’s play to visualise what lay ahead and presumably get plenty of positive energy running through his feet. Now Langer is at it.

Grounding refers to making any kind of direct contact with the earth’s surface which, it is said, allows you to reconnect with the earth’s electrons and reap considerable health benefits. Whether it enables you to keep out Jofra Archer at 10.30am in Birmingham remains to be seen on Thursday.

While doing a bit of grounding, Australia were at least able to remind themselves of positive cricketing memories on a ground where they have not won since 2001.

Handscomb said: ‘It was just an open and honest conversation and it was great that some of the guys poured their heart out about what it meant to get to the semi-final. It was about their first memories of cricket growing up and it was really nice. It was great to see what playing in the finals means to this group.’

But will all that do any good for Australia at an Edgbaston fortress where England have won their last 10 games in all formats?

‘Cool. I didn’t know that stat,’ said Handscomb.

How about now that you do? ‘Now that I do it really doesn’t make any difference. Those games are in the past. We know the crowd are amazing here. It can be electric and they let you know all about it. We know this crowd will be tough but that gets us going.’

It is safe to say Trevor Bayliss, an Australian of the old school as different in personality and approach to Langer as it is possible to be, will not be shedding his socks and going down the same path anytime soon.

Coach Bayliss’ verdict on the matter, sadly, remained private on Monday but Joe Root, a skilled diplomat, managed to sway out of the way of a potential verbal bouncer after he was asked whether he fancied a bit of grounding?

When asked on Monday if he’d heard of the process being used in cricket before, Root said: ‘I haven’t, no. Each to their own if it’s something important to them. They can prepare how they want. We will make sure we are ready in our own way.’

More conventional training will begin in earnest at Edgbaston on Tuesday but one thing could be said for Australia’s unorthodox approach at Edgbaston – at least they weren’t hiding anything down their trousers.

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