After the event the Australians were indeed magnanimous.
During, however, they were sometimes something but, even despite the excellent rapport between the teams.
After the event the Australians were indeed magnanimous.
During, however, they were sometimes something but, even despite the excellent rapport between the teams.
Appreciating cricket's greatest legend ever - HD Bird...............Funniest post (intentionally) ever.....Runner-up.....Third.....Fourthcricket player"; "Bob"), 1/11/1990-15/4/2006
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Why Ponting's rant over run-out was a load of poppycock
Duncan Fletcher recalls being abused by Australia's captain and says cheating claims were hypocritical
Thursday October 20, 2005
I smiled at Trent Bridge. Yes, those of you who consider me the grumpiest man on the planet might require me to repeat that. I smiled. And what a brouhaha it caused. It concerned, of course, the now infamous substitute story. Or non-story, as it should have been. But before I talk you through that, I just want to say that I am not grumpy. I might be considered a serious person, but the reason for my often stern gaze is hereditary. All my family have low jowls; just a slight lifting of them creates a smile. I could not be happier. And I do smile sometimes, as I proved here.
I smiled at Ricky Ponting. He didn't smile back. He was in a terrible temper for some reason. Quite why he was blaming me when his partner, Damien Martyn, had called him for a suicidal single to cover, I don't know.
You know what's more? All the palaver caused me to burn my toast. Yes, that's right, it was the Saturday afternoon of the fourth Test and I was making some toast in the main changing room. I heard the roar and looked up at the television. They showed the replay. Ponting had been run out by a long way. Fantastic. What a brilliant piece of fielding. "What's wrong with Ponting? Why doesn't he want to leave the field?" I could hear people saying. I forgot about my toast and went out on to the balcony. There was an incident brewing.
Ponting was nearing the boundary's edge, very obviously swearing and cursing. He looked up and began to direct his aggression towards me. I do not honestly know what he was saying, but it did not appear very friendly. I think that we can safely assume he was abusing me.
I altered my gaze towards the England players out in the middle, to see what their reaction was. Then I glanced back down at Ponting. He was still ranting and raving. I did not want to be drawn into any sort of conflict, so I smiled. It only incensed him more. He could not take that. He completely blew his top. I did not actually think it at the time but, looking back now, that might have been the moment when it became clear England were going to reclaim the Ashes. This was an Australian side under enormous pressure. The mental strain was becoming so much that they were grasping any opportunity - however ludicrous - to hit back at us.
I might have smiled, too, because I found the whole scenario funny. There was no plan. I will state categorically here, in total honesty, that we did not have any preconceived or underhand plan to use substitutes so that we could rest our bowlers. We never have done. Never will. Ponting was clutching at straws. If he thought that he had a gripe, he chose the wrong moment to do it anyway. Durham's Gary Pratt, who effected the superb throw from cover, was on the field for Simon Jones. Jones was resting all right. He was in hospital, having an x-ray on an injured ankle for which he left the field after bowling just four overs in Australia's second-innings follow-on.
We were actually struggling to find suitable players for Trent Bridge when Steve Harmison said, "Pratty's not playing for Durham, give him a call." He is a player we have used many times before and is an excellent fielder, so we had no hesitation in doing so. When he turned up here he would have had no idea what was going to occur. Little could he have known that he would finish the summer riding on an open-top bus through London as we celebrated winning the Ashes.
We also called in Trevor Penney, Warwickshire's 37-year-old Zimbabwean. He is generally regarded as one of the best fielders to have graced the county game. I have heard the word "genius" used in respect of his fielding. Now, tell me, if we had had a plan to put some brilliant fielders out there instead of our bowlers, would we not have put Penney out there first before Pratt? Of course we would. I was told later that, soon after the Ponting incident, Penney too went out on to the field as a second substitute. I did not even realise that. It was certainly not my way of further winding up the Australians.
There were a couple of reasons why players were coming off the field during this series. The first was that some needed to relieve themselves. As simple as that. That would have represented 95% of the occasions when a substitute was used, for no more than one over at a time. These days there is considerable emphasis placed by the physiologists on the correct levels of hydration. Everyone is encouraged to drink a lot, and some have stronger bladders than others. It is not only the bowlers who come off. Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan have to on the odd occasion, and we do not want such a good captain as Vaughan off for too long - not even an over if we can help it.
Amid all this fuss did anyone actually make a note of who was coming off each time and what for? Of course they didn't, except for two people - the umpires, who have to make a note of every coming and going in the course of their duties. Not once did they raise the issue with me or Vaughan. Therefore how have we been transgressing? A lot of people seemed to jump on the substitute bandwagon without having any knowledge of the full facts. But that is nothing new. There was some ridiculous statistic that England substitutes have taken more catches than those for any other country in the last four years, but what does that prove? Nothing.
Secondly there were some players who were coming off to see the physio. Some like Vaughan (knee) and Andrew Flintoff (ankle) have had surgery, and when a niggle develops in that same area it can cause concern. Most of the time they just want reassurance that it is not the same problem as that which necessitated an operation. In any case we would not want Flintoff off for very long - he is a brilliant slip fielder and you never see these substitutes fielding there, do you?
I would actually prefer it if the bowlers did not come off so often. They expend more energy running off the field, up the stairs, into the toilet and then back down the stairs than they would grazing at fine leg or third man. Anyway, in the 90 overs played in a day, what if players are off for a total of six or eight overs? It is nothing.
This was not the first time the Australians had raised this issue of substitutes. Their coach John Buchanan had alluded to it during his rant at me after the NatWest Series. To be honest, it was good to hear such comments. We could repel them with a clear conscience. We knew that we were doing nothing wrong.
Ponting was fined 75% of his match fee for his outburst. But still he had not had enough. Speaking on a Melbourne radio station, this is what he said: "I think it is an absolute disgrace [that] the spirit of the game is being treated like that. Fletcher has known right the way through the summer this is something we haven't been happy with, but it's continued. He knows it's something that has got under our skins and I've had enough of it, and I let him know that, and most of his players too. Being here in England they've obviously got the resources to just draft in the best fieldsmen they possibly can at the time. The way they've been doing it is just before their bowlers are about to bowl; they'll send them off for a short amount of time to have a bit of a loosen-up and a massage, and come back on and bowl. As soon as they've finished their spell they'll do exactly the same thing. It's within the rules of the game but it's just not within the spirit of the game, which is what we're all trying to uphold."
As I have explained, all of this is poppycock. At no stage of the series did any of our bowlers come off for a rub-down as Ponting suggested. But I thought it best I did not react in any way to his comments. I could easily have blown this incident up, but to some degree I appreciated the stress and pressure Ponting was under. Indeed, before Ponting made those public comments, I thought the matter had been closed.
The day after the incident I was walking down the stairs from the dining room at Trent Bridge when Ponting appeared coming the other way. As he came close I stopped and extended my hand, which he shook. I didn't say anything, just nodded my head. My message was, "Let's shake hands on this and forget about it." We went in opposite directions and I thought that would be the end of it. Ian Bell happened to be walking behind me and he commented, "That was a bit of a surprise."
So too then were Ponting's later comments. Word also came back to me that there were some vitriolic comments being directed at me back in Australia. In fact, so insulting were some of the remarks by one pair of radio presenters that I received a letter from an Australian lawyer offering to act against the defamation of my character. I seemed to have become the villain who had so wronged their captain. That could not be further from the truth.
What riled me most about Ponting's comments was his reference to the spirit of the game. Let us look at a number of incidents which had already occurred in the series and see whether the Australians were being so meticulous in their upholding of the spirit of the game.
First, amid all this talk of substitutes, what about the Old Trafford Test when Michael Clarke had his back problems? When he appeared to bat in the second innings, did he have a runner? No. Did he suddenly recover that morning then? Where was he when we were smashing it around the park the day before? I also noticed that Brad Hodge was on as a substitute fielder for him; that was strange when the Australians were also talking about it being traditional to use a bowler for 12th-man duties. Why was Mike Kasprowicz or Shaun Tait not on the field? It should be remembered that Hodge took two excellent catches, one at deep squareleg in the first innings to dismiss Pietersen and the other at fine leg to end Vaughan's second innings.
Second - and this is the most serious example - whenever a decision went against Australia during the series, did you notice how Ponting would invariably walk straight up to the umpire and challenge his decision using overbearing body language? On occasions, just like in football, he was supported by Adam Gilchrist. Sometimes there was even a third person involved. Is that really what we want kids to see when they watch cricket? Is that in the spirit of the game? Did you ever see Vaughan or any of the England players challenge the umpire in that manner during the series?
Third, what about Gilchrist saying loudly so the umpire could hear "We're owed one dodgy decision here, boys" in the second innings at Trent Bridge? That was reported by Simon Hughes and was no doubt unearthed during his work as the analyst in the Channel 4 van. Is it in the spirit of the game to be saying things like that?
Fourth, what about one of the Australians deliberately bowling on a pre-cut strip before the start of play on one of the match days of the Trent Bridge Test? It was clearly a strip being readied for a Nottinghamshire match, while another one had been clearly designated on the edge of the square for bowlers to practise on: that is the norm at all Test grounds. This petulant behaviour was no doubt the upshot of comments made by the groundsman before the Test, to which some of the Australians had taken exception. We also had it on good authority that the groundsman was verbally abused by some of those same Australian players.
Fifth - and this is nearly as important as the second instance - going back to the second Test at Edgbaston, was it in the spirit of the game to try to ensure that an opposition player was fined? Simon Jones was fined 20% of his match fee after pointing Matthew Hayden to the pavilion after he had him caught at slip by Trescothick for 31. But soon after that incident had occurred, when the fourth umpire came through the dressing rooms from the field after a drinks break, there were Australian players bringing it to his attention. "Make sure that you report it to the match referee" was what they were suggesting.
Finally, was it not the Australians who were warned twice for slowing the game up on the fourth day at Old Trafford as we chased runs for a declaration? Is that in the spirit of the game? The shame was that all this fuss at Trent Bridge might have detracted from a magnificent game of cricket. When I went to the press conference after that third day all the questions concerned substitutes. Never mind that Australia had followed on for the first time in 17 years and were 222-4 in their second innings. Maybe the Australians wanted something to deflect from that unwanted bit of history they were creating.
Hurt, hopes and hardship on the road to glory
First Test, Lord's
All out for 180, we had lost by 239 runs. That is a hammering and there was no escaping the fact. But there was also no excuse for the waves of negativity and depression that engulfed the country. We were written off immediately.
It was a stressful time for me and the team, but I can honestly say I always retained my belief in them throughout this period. Nobody outside the squad gave us a prayer of being able to recover. But I knew that we could. That is why I was so adamant that there should be no changes. Predictably there were widespread calls for that to be the case. But I knew that we had to remain strong in our belief in this team.
What did upset me and the rest of the squad was the comment directed at Ashley Giles by Dave Houghton, a former Zimbabwean team-mate of mine, now coaching Derbyshire. After Giles's performance at Lord's - which even he himself would say was below par - Houghton said that England would be better off playing with 10 men. What sort of comment is that? I know Houghton well and like him, and I wonder whether he was misinterpreted. If he was not, then I'm sure that he regrets saying that. It certainly hurt Giles a lot.
As did Glenn McGrath's comment that he thought the series score would be 5-0. That made an impression on everyone within the squad. It was not a very clever comment by McGrath and I wonder what his team-mates made of it deep down. It was clearly an early attempt at public humiliation, but all it achieved was to spur our team on.
Second Test, Edgbaston
I cannot deny that Glenn McGrath's withdrawal from this match gave us an enormous lift. How could it not? He had taken 9 for 82 in the match at Lord's, and is one of the great fast bowlers of all time. But, yes, there is a corollary. At Lord's everything was in his favour. Previous to that I had seen signs that he was on the wane a little. We had never hit him around with such ease at the death in one-day matches before, for instance. It seemed to me that unless the ball was seaming about, he would not find wickets so easy to come by at this advanced stage of his career. I think he would have struggled at Edgbaston.
We will never know. What we did know at 10 o'clock on that first morning was that we were batting. I do not usually watch the toss taking place, so when I heard the shout go up that we were batting I thought to myself: "Great toss to win, Vaughany." It was then that I was informed that Ricky Ponting had won the toss and inserted us.
To say it was a surprise would be to understate my reaction. It was a complete shock. What was he thinking? There had been no doubt in our minds that we were going to bat. He must have been duped by all that talk of a damp pitch. Yes, there was a possibility it might seam around a little in the first hour, but that is the case with most Test pitches. Maybe he should have changed tack once McGrath went down, but that would not have shown faith in his replacement, Mike Kasprowicz. I didn't really care. That was their problem. I was just very happy we were batting.
Third Test, Old Trafford
The final day at Old Trafford was incredible. They tell me 20,000 people were turned away at the gates. It seemed like more. It was chaos. I normally like to get to the ground early, at about 8am, but even at that time there was gridlock. I feared that I might be late for the warm-up at 9.15. My wife, Marina, came to the ground in a taxi with some players' wives just after play had begun, and she thought that there might have been a bomb scare. It seemed to her like a mass evacuation as there were so many people walking away from the ground. It is the first time that I can recall our running through a warm-up to a fully packed ground. It definitely put an extra spring in the players' strides. Those fans who made it into the ground could have asked for little more in terms of entertainment.
One more wicket, I suppose, for the win. But we gave it everything on a pitch which did not deteriorate as much as we expected or indeed hoped. I could not help feeling that the Australians had been fortunate. If it had not rained so much on the Saturday we would surely have won the match. We deserved to be 2-1 up.
Fourth Test, Trent Bridge
Could we sort it to chase 129 to win? I always thought so. My only real jitter came when Flintoff was out at 103-5. Matters were becoming very tense in the dressing room, though. As a little partnership was being built, you could sense the players becoming boisterous. Then a wicket would fall and silence would descend. The players think they have got it bad in terms of pressure, but what about me? I cannot even do anything about the situation. That is the gist of what I said to Ashley Giles when he came into the coach's room at Trent Bridge. We were four wickets down and he already had his pads on. Normally he would be the most relaxed of characters, but he was very nervous here. "I'm not sure how I am going to cope," he said to me.
"At least you are one of the players who can do something about this. Once you cross that line, you will be fine," I told him.
Shortly afterwards Giles clipped Warne through midwicket for the winning runs. We had won by three wickets. Another cliff-hanger, but we were 2-1 up, with one to play. I think I smiled again, but nobody seemed to notice this time.
^ ^ ^ ^ ^ Extremely interesting Article . Well done for posting it here.
WWCC - Loyaulte Mi Lie
"People make me happy.. not places.. people"
"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." - Samuel Johnson
"Hope is the fuel of progress and fear is the prison in which you put yourself" - Tony Benn
TBH, though, they spent most of the series being 2nd-best. Not being defeated, but in the process of defeat.
I'm not making direct comparisons to the Jayawardene case here, BTW.
BTW, is it correct to say 'being magnanimous in defeat'. ? Magnanimous in victory sounds more appropriate and hence Ponting could have been magnanimous if he praised the Sri Lankan effort.
Sri Lankans (or thier skipper) would be 'gracious in defeat' or something like that, no?
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