~~Don~~t believe the matey talk with England~~

Published: Sunday, October 15, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Skipper Ricky Ponting has rejected suggestions that Shane Warne's close friendship with Kevin Pietersen shows Australia are too friendly with Ashes rivals England.

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

Some former greats believe an over-friendly atmosphere contributed to Australia's loss of the Ashes in last year's epic series in England.

But Ponting, whose captaincy was under fire in last year's series, says Australia will play as hard as ever over the next couple of months.

"I can assure you that the Test cricket played in last year's Ashes series was incredibly tough, as hard as any of the Test cricket I have played," Ponting said in an interview with Sydney's Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

"Having said that, I think I play my best cricket -- as do the team -- when we have a smile on our faces.

"I guess a lot of people may have got the impression that we were too friendly by the close friendship Shane Warne has with Kevin Pietersen, but this stems back to their English county cricket.

"Similarly, the act of sportsmanship between Andrew Flintoff and Brett Lee at the end of the second Edgbaston Test, some people regarded that as a sign of us being too friendly when it was a genuine act of sportsmanship by both players.

"I can tell you that last year's Ashes series was an incredibly tough battle on the field, and I expect this season to be no different."

Ponting says he has also addressed discipline issues with his players after admitting the team has overstepped the line in the past year.

"The Australian cricket team prides itself on playing the game hard but fair," Ponting said.

"Obviously there have been occasions in the past where individuals, myself included, have overstepped the mark, and this is unacceptable.

"I have spoken to the team about this fact -- particularly for myself as captain.

"We understand the profile and exposure that comes with representing Australia and we do not carry this responsibility lightly. We have addressed instances where we have gone too far."

Last month in a triangular tournament in Kuala Lumpur Ponting was fined his entire match fee by the ICC match referee for confronting umpire Asad Rauf over a wide delivery in their one-day match against the West Indies.

Cricket Australia reproached Ponting over his behaviour and said it was a concern.

It was Ponting's second offence this year. The other took place during the second Test against Bangladesh in Chittagong in April.


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