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'That makes me feel warm and fuzzy': Justin Langer on Steve Smith coming back to Australia set-up

Coach expects former captain, currently serving ban for role in ball-tampering scandal to come straight back into the side

The prospect of Steve Smith being available to play for Australia again after serving his ban has excited coach Justin Langer. Getty
The prospect of Steve Smith being available to play for Australia again after serving his ban has excited coach Justin Langer. Getty

Justin Langer has admitted he cannot wait to have Steve Smith back in the Australia set-up and compared the importance of the banned former captain to that of Virat Kohli.

Smith, along with David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, is serving a suspension for his involvement in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

Smith, who has scored 23 hundreds in 64 Tests, is not eligible for selection in any form of international cricket until the end of March 2019.

But Langer made it clear it would be a matter of when he is picked again, with a 50-over World Cup and the Ashes to come next summer, and speaking ahead of the third Test with India, which starts on Wednesday, he spoke of his relationship with the 29 year old.

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"We can't wait to have him back. He's the Virat Kohli of the Australian cricket team," Langer said, likening him to India's captain and batting mainstay.

"I've spoken to him. That's much more important to me than what I read in the press – that's with absolute respect – because I hear it straight from the horse's mouth. I think he's in a very determined place. Obviously, it's been a really tough time for him.

"I know how determined he is to get back and play for Australia. That makes me feel warm and fuzzy, knowing Steve Smith is determined."

Meanwhile, Mitchell Marsh is likely to be recalled for the third Test after Langer endorsed the all-rounder's potential value on a pitch which tends to test the bowlers.

The hosts are yet to announce their playing XI but Peter Handscomb's middle order position looked in jeopardy after Langer backed Marsh who missed the first two Tests of the four-match series currently level at 1-1.

"In a perfectly balanced side, you've got someone who can bowl some overs," Langer said on Monday as he discussed how he wanted his side to be balanced for the match-up.

"And Mitch becomes an attractive commodity on a wicket unlike Adelaide and Perth ... although there's a bit of moisture in it, we also know the history of it."

No five Handscomb has managed 68 runs in four innings against India and has appeared to be struggling with his footwork throughout the two matches.

Forecast for warm weather and only three days' gap before the final test in Sydney also means Australia would be extra careful about managing the workload of their frontline pacemen with a lot of overs likely to be required to be bowled.

"Our fast bowlers have been lucky, we've bowled less overs than India's bowlers at the moment, particularly (Jasprit) Bumrah, and that's an important part of the series," Langer said. "We're always looking at how we're trying to manage it.

"In this instance, this is the only test we're thinking about. But we're always aware that there's two back-to-back test matches, which is tough."

Langer joked the selection dilemma had taken his mind off everything else, including thinking about the festive season with his family.

"Pete's a very good player of spin bowling... and Mitch is a pretty good player of spin bowling too," he said.

"We'll weigh up all those things, and they're the hard decisions. All those factors, trust me, we think about it.

"It's a bit sad, really; I'm not thinking about what Christmas present I'm going to give to my kids, I'm thinking about who plays spin better, whether we'll play the extra bowler, how many overs have the fast bowlers bowled. It's sad."

Updated: December 24, 2018 11:03 AM

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