Qantas Tour of England - ODIs
Now and Zen: Carey awaits Langer lessons
Keeper-batsman enthused by prospect of working closely with Australia's new head coach
17 May 2018, 02:44 PM AEST
Alex Carey might be the sole Australia cricketer who can look back on his sojourn to Cape Town last March with fond recall.
That's because Carey arrived in the South African tourist hotspot on holidays a few days after the seismic on-field events that played out at its cricket home, Newlands, and on television screens around a disbelieving world.
And it was while he was there, ensconced in the delights of Camps Bay and celebrating the wedding of friends before heading off for a few days on the safari trail, he learned he was one of 20 players handed a Cricket Australia contract in what would become a dramatically reshaped men's team.
By the time the 26-year-old returned home to Adelaide, the damage wrought by the ball-tampering incident that provided one of the wedding weekend's other conversation topics was evident, with captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and coach Darren Lehmann among its casualties.
And in less than a month, the next era of Australia's men's team under Justin Langer begins with the Qantas ODI Tour of the UK, and Carey is already gaining some insights as to how that relaunch might look.
The South Australia wicketkeeper-batter had his first chat with Langer last week and, having previously only known his new national mentor in the guise of opposition coach, felt an immediate affinity with the man who will oversee the men's team in all formats for the next four years.
"He sounds like a ripping bloke," Carey said of his phone conversation last Friday, which formed part of Langer's familiarisation with his new charges.
"When I had a chat with him – and I guess it's always a bit nerve-wracking meeting up with the Australian coach for the first time – he was just really calming.
"Sort of in that Buddhist monk kind of way. He spoke quietly and slowly which made me feel more so much more comfortable.
"So I think he's going to be quite tough in terms of getting the best out of everyone, but it sounds like he's also quite a calming influence as well, and every WA player I've spoken to has absolutely loved him."
Langer has already indicated that he is drawn to 'different' characters who challenge orthodoxy and march to a different, if vaguely recognisable beat.
Where he will find commonality with Carey, who was last week elevated to the office of Australia's T20I vice-captain despite debuting at international level just months ago, is in their mutual attitude to work ethic.
As a former AFL football prodigy, Carey maintains a fastidious training regimen but looks forward to learning more about the power of the mind from a coach who enjoys imparting wisdom and philosophy as much as he does driving young men to shared and individual success.
"I do like the hard work and pride myself on that to some extent, so I'm looking forward to perhaps learning a bit more about mental toughness from him as well," Carey told cricket.com.au this week.
"From what I see of the WA boys and his (Langer's) own interest in martial arts, he's also very strong on fitness so that's great, because I like that."
Among Langer's other challenges is to rebuild a dressing room scrutinised and scarified by the cheating scandal in South Africa, and strengthen the team's culture in order to reconnect with a disillusioned Australia public.
However, that would seem a task more germane to the Test outfit if Carey's recent experiences of the players' inner-sanctum in white-ball formats provide an accurate indicator.
Rushed into the ODI line-up at a day's notice when incumbent keeper (now captain) Tim Paine was laid low with gastroenteritis last January, Carey claims he felt instantly at ease when he joined the squad in Brisbane even though there was many within that group he had not previously met.
And while the result was forgettable – England cruised to a four-wicket win with almost six overs up their sleeves during their dominant Gillette ODI Series – the debutant had nothing but warm memories of the environment and the experience.
"It was as if I'd played a number of games with that group, it was so easy to roll in and play my style of cricket and enjoy the moment," Carey recalled.
"Having been exposed to the Big Bash before that, I didn't find the big crowd so intimidating and the fact that (England keeper) Jos Buttler was behind the stumps when I went out to bat and I'd played against him and the Sydney Thunder a few weeks earlier made it even more familiar.
"It was just really enjoyable, I didn't feel like it was overwhelming or intimidating.
"With the calibre of guys that are involved, you expect it to be elite and it was exactly that."
That fraternal feeling only grew when Carey became part of Australia's T20I outfit under then captain David Warner that swept undefeated through the tri-series against England and New Zealand, including a record successful run chase at Auckland's Eden Park.
Carey said the presence of so many players in that T20 squad with limited international experience – the likes of Billy Stanlake, D'Arcy Short, Chris Lynn, Andrew Tye and Marcus Stoinis – plus Warner's ebullient leadership style created a relaxed yet close-knit group.
And even when New Zealand openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro were blazing the ball to all parts of Eden Park in their century-plus first-wicket stand and the parochial home crowd was dishing it out to the visitors, he found it impossible not to revel in the occasion.
A simple joy of competition that he noticed among his teammates as well.
"The culture in that group was really good, we did a lot of team stuff together being on the road for a few weeks and just hanging out together so it was just really enjoyable," Carey recalls.
"We were winning games and it just felt like we built up this momentum to where we had become a really dominant T20 side.
"It was in that Eden Park game, when we fielded first and the ball was flying around everywhere, and it got to around the 17-over mark when I was looking around at our guys and everyone was smiling.
"It was just the most enjoyable game of cricket I have ever played.
"Even our fielders, it was so weird – they were scoring so quickly and heavily but I'd run past our guys and it was like 'how good is this atmosphere?'
"The crowd was going crazy, yet everyone just had a big smile on their faces and it somehow felt like we were going to make the runs (the 244 needed) when we went in at the change of innings.
"It was just a really close group of guys.
"I didn't feel like I was a third or fourth gamer in that side, it was a really easy transition into that level of cricket because of the coaches and support staff as well as the senior players we had, and the young guys with all the energy.
"It was something I look back on and hopefully the next tour is like that – it was pretty cool."
Qantas ODI Tour of England
June 7 Warm-up v Sussex, Hove (D/N)
June 9 Warm-up v Middlesex, Lord's
June 13 First ODI, The Oval (D/N)
June 16 Second ODI, Cardiff
June 19 Third ODI, Trent Bridge (D/N)
June 21 Fourth ODI, Durham (D/N)
June 24 Fifth ODI, Old Trafford
June 27 Only T20, Edgbaston (D/N)
T20I tri-series in Zimbabwe
Sunday, July 1: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan
Monday, July 2: Pakistan vs Australia
Tuesday, July 3: Australia vs Zimbabwe
Wednesday, July 4: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan
Thursday, July 5: Pakistan vs Australia
Friday, July 6: Australia vs Zimbabwe
Sunday, July 8: Final