Australia come to the World Cup singing and dancing

One of the first investments Australia have made in England is a big speaker. They didn't travel with it, but at some point decided to buy it here. It sits in a corner with an iPad as the team gets together for a huddle at the County Ground in Bristol. It is not the kind of tight huddle you see on TV. Nobody is touching anybody. This is a luxurious circle with the whole support staff in and room for people to come up and talk. The mood is good. There's cackling and laughter and loads of clapping. The loudest voice is the photographer/videographer's.

As the huddle breaks and the squad splits into groups, somebody puts the speaker on. The playlist starts off with folk rock. "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac gets Kane Richardson dancing as he pulls on a rope. It moves to The J. Geils Band before somebody puts off the playlist and just plays George Ezra. "Paradise", "Barcelona", "Cassy O'", "Blame It On Me". Nobody complains even if it shockingly turns to "Ice Ice Baby" in between.

"I used to say when I was a player I have a beautiful wife and a beautiful family and a bit of money in the bank... but if I didn't make any runs I'm miserable. It's the same; if you are not winning, it's hard, it's a hard environment to be in. We've won a few games, there's a good feeling." Justin Langer

A little over a year ago, a more sombre set played as Australia trained at Wanderers. In the wake of the ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town, Australian cricket, as we knew it, had ceased to exist. Steven Smith had had a tearful press conference in Sydney. Darren Lehmann had broken down too. It is still not clear how the playlist made it to the PA system, but there never was a more fitting time to play "How To Make Gravy" by Australian treasure Paul Kelly, the song of a prisoner missing Christmas and his family.

"Tell 'em all I am sorry,I screwed up this time"

Classics from Crowded House - New Zealanders but Australians lay a claim to them - and Hunters & Collectors and AC/DC and Nick Cave and The Reels all played that day.

The playlist is not the only thing that has changed in Bristol. Justin Langer, who replaced Lehmann as coach, had the toughest initiation imaginable. They travelled to England to sights of sandpaper everywhere, and lost every game - five ODIs and a T20I - on the tour. Langer, used to winning a lot as Perth Scorchers' coach, was not very impressed. He remembers chatting with Richardson at the end of the 50-over whitewash.

"I never thought he'd play cricket for Australia again," Langer says. "I didn't think he had the bottle."

Things began to change, but too slowly. They were target of worldwide ridicule. A weakened side lost a home Test series to India for the first time in history. Their ODI captain couldn't buy a run. And they come to a World Cup not as top-two favourites; unfamiliar territory for Australia ever since they won it in this country 20 years ago. They also have the small issue of reintegrating Smith and David Warner. This side has suffered for their mistake but it still wants them back.

ALSO READ: The kid from the sticks who will lead Australia in the World Cup

Langer and assistant coach Ricky Ponting have been part of many a winning dressing room and they believe they have never seen a louder, happier, noisier bunch of players. There is no structure to warming up. Marcus Stoinis is doing handstands. Mitchell Starc looks as though he is doing aerobics synchronised with the music. Warner is like a boxer getting ready (don't forget the relationship between dancing and fighting). Ponting is fighting playfully with one of the players.

And Langer is simply looking on with a smile on his face. "I can't remember a group of players who have had so much laughter, and that's a really good sign for me," he says. "I've said this for many years. As a player and coach that camaraderie is crucial in great teams. It's the glue that keeps things together when the pressure comes on. And the pressure will come on in the World Cup."

ALSO READ: Will this be Glenn Maxwell's World Cup?

Langer talks a lot from the point of view of a father. When he hopes Smith and Warner don't get booed after they have done their time - most will argue, more time than the crime called for - Langer is thinking of what such reception would do to his kids. "A lot of the times, players feel like they are my kids."

Now Australia are not averse to stage-managing their image and how they are portrayed - #EliteHonesty, anyone? - but the happy, lovey feeling in this group is much more organic, much more on the field than in press conferences. They look every bit like a side on a winning streak and believing it can defend its title this World Cup. Even Nathan Lyon is not grumpy these days ("Nice, Garry!" for a different reason.)

Richardson is a good example of the turnaround. "He is having a red-hot dip here," Langer says, "Everything he does, whether it's at training... He has talked about it to the group, he doesn't want to play scared cricket; he wants to be an Australian cricketer, he's a great role model for our players to come from where we were 12 months ago.

"It was just [about] believing in himself. He is a really talented athlete. He has great skills. He is a beautiful athlete. He can field well, catch well, but when you are just holding back a little bit - 'maybe I won't go for that because I don't want to mess it up' - now he is having a dip and a red-hot crack at it. You get to this level, there are so many distractions, it is so hard. If you are not going 100%, too hard. He is going 100% now, and I have great respect for him for that."

Langer knows this belief, this calm, this love, can be fleeting. Winning is the glue that keeps it together. "Let's face it: call me a bit sad, but I used to say when I was a player I have a beautiful wife and a beautiful family and a bit of money in the bank and I drive a fancy car and I've got nice food on the table but if I didn't make any runs I'm miserable," he says. "It's the same; if you are not winning, it's hard, it's a hard environment to be in. We've won a few games, there's a good feeling."

This winning couldn't have come at a better time. The group needed to win before the return of Smith and Warner. It needed their captain to come good before the pair's return. They needed to believe they were not waiting for messiahs. Aaron Finch has the runs, and the respect. Starc is bowling well again. Pat Cummins is in red-hot form. Warner and Smith are back with their batting not looking rusty at all. It is all coming together for Australia just at the right time. If Langer and Ponting are impressed with the belief in this group, they must be on to something. To paraphrase Sugar Ray Leonard, beware the boxer who trains to music.