Aussie veterans urge to end Ashes friendship!

Published: Friday, October 13, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Current and past players are divided over how friendly the Australian team should be towards England in this year's Ashes cricket series, reports said.

Former Test stars Merv Hughes, Allan Border and Mark Waugh have urged Ricky Ponting's team to put friendships on hold when the much-anticipated five-Test series begins in Brisbane on Nov 23.

Some former greats believe the matey relationship contributed to Australia's loss of the Ashes in last year's epic series in England.

Australia's champion leg-spinner Shane Warne and England batsman Kevin Pietersen are good mates and exchanged jokes through the series and the Australians enjoy the company of Andy Flintoff, who will lead England on this year's tour to Australia.

While Ponting, vice-captain Adam Gilchrist and senior opening batsman Justin Langer dispute the Australians were overly friendly, former captain Border isn't so sure.

"To me the perception was it was a very friendly series, played in fantastic spirit," Border, a former selector, told The Daily Telegraph Friday.

"We are not complaining about that but there was a perception we didn't have an edge to our game that we've had in the past."

Waugh, twin brother of former hard-nosed Australia captain Steve Waugh, said fraternising too much with an opponent "takes away that little bit of aura you might have out on the field.

"It's like when we used to play the West Indies - they were pretty scary at one stage," he said on television this week.

"They weren't too friendly out on the field. I'd like to see our blokes not be so friendly out on the field.

"You can play the game hard and fair. I think that's the best way we should play it."

Hughes, the former cult-hero fast bowler turned national selector, has said he wants the team to adopt the hard-nosed approach seen during Border's reign which in 1989 sparked the team's renaissance.

"We lost the attitude towards the English that we once had, the attitude that was introduced by Allan Border," Hughes said.

Gilchrist won't hear of the criticisms from his Test predecessors.

"Rubbish. They don't know what they are talking about in regards to that series because they weren't there, they weren't in amongst it," he said Friday.

"I respect their opinions on many things and understand maybe the message they are trying to get across there. But they don't know."

Ponting, who has described last year's epic battle as the fiercest of his career, wants his team to play with a "smile".

"It was on for young and old all the way through," he said.

"We play our best when we are hard-nosed and aggressive and that's the way we have to approach it again.

"How you get on off the field is all taken away when you get on the field. We have to make sure we keep doing that."

Langer, who was hit on the elbow with the second ball of the first Test by paceman Steve Harmison in last year's series, said the criticisms were ludicrous.

"Imagine an Ashes contest being played like a village game, that's the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard," Langer told the newspaper.

"We played good, hard cricket on the field and had a beer off it. That's how it should be."


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