MELBOURNE • Australia cricket coach Justin Langer yesterday admitted that he feels like a "director of a soap opera" as speculation grew around the futures of banned Steve Smith and David Warner.
Debate about the pair reared again during the third Test against India in Melbourne, after Smith and Cameron Bancroft gave interviews about the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last March.
Australia's woeful batting in the match, which they lost by 137 runs, also drew attention to how much Smith and Warner were missed.
"It's all just part of the soap opera we're in every day," Langer said yesterday ahead of Thursday's fourth and final Test, with India leading the series 2-1.
"I feel like a director of a soap opera at the moment, I honestly do.
"Coaching is about man management and looking after people, caring for people, and that was just another distraction last week."
Bancroft, who was banned for nine months, made his return on Sunday evening for the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League, but lasted only three balls.
Smith and Warner's suspensions run out in late March, and their exile has left a big void in the team.
Aaron Finch has been unable to reproduce his limited-overs form in the red ball game, Usman Khawaja has struggled and newcomer Marcus Harris at the top of the order has yet to post a big score.
"We've got a lot of guys learning on the run at the same time," said Langer, acknowledging the team's lack of experience. "That's not easy for them, but we'll collectively be better for it over time."