Former England spin bowler Monty Panesar claims the Australian cricket team has lost the aura and intimidation it was once famous for.
Panesar played six Ashes Tests during his career and five of those were in hostile territory Down Under.
“When I played in 2006 and I would bowl to (Matthew) Hayden and (Adam) Gilchrist – all of these players – they would look at you like, ‘what are you doing on the same field as me? You’re not as good as me’,” Panesar told ABC radio.
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“That is what the Australian side was like. I don’t think this (current) team has the same feel about it.”
In 2018, Cricket Australia set about changing the perception of its men’s national team following the infamous Cape Town ball tampering scandal.
Since replacing Darren Lehmann with Justin Langer as coach of the team, Australia has made a concerted effort to be more friendly and less overtly aggressive and hostile while competing. Most recently the national team won the Twenty20 World Cup, beating the original nice guys – New Zealand – in a tournament final that featured warm interplay between the two sides, despite the high stakes.
In a separate column for the UK Telegraph, though, Panesar warned England’s current players to expect plenty of fire from the Aussie crowds during the tour, which starts at the Gabba on Wednesday.
“Australia is a hostile environment. The weather, the wildlife and – yes – the cricket fans are all out to get you, or at least that’s how it can feel,” Panesar wrote.
“In terms of the supporters, they crank up the pressure and keep going until you crack. If you complain, they’ll say, ‘sorry, mate, it was only a joke’. If you fight back, it will be, ‘gosh, you went a bit far, mate’.
“It’s all hard but fair until the moment you react.”
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VAUGHAN’S CAPTAINCY CALL
Former England captain Michael Vaughan says the two opposing skippers will decide the fate of this Ashes series.
Joe Root has been leading the Poms for years, but Pat Cummins will be captaining Australia for the first time at the Gabba on Wednesday.
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Vaughan says Root has the chance to assert early dominance over his rival and set the tone for the series.
“Joe has to be positive. He has a great opportunity to nullify Cummins and set an example,” Vaughan wrote for the UK Telegraph.
“He could take Cummins into his third or fourth spell. Joe, with his batting, can make Cummins question himself: when do I bowl, what end do I bowl from, am I bowling myself too much or not enough? It will be fascinating to see if Cummins relaxes into the job.
“Because (Cummins) is such a brilliant cricketer we forget that taking on the captaincy changes life for him. Walking into that dressing room as captain is different. You are not one of the lads anymore. You have to change.
“Root has been there before as captain. He knows what to expect. Cummins does not know yet whether he can handle playing and leadership.”
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WHY ENGLAND WILL RELISH THE RAIN
Former Ashes paceman Steve Harmison says the wet weather lashing Australia’s east coast will play into the hands of the tourists.
Rain has constantly interrupted preparations for both camps in south east Queensland, and it’s looking likely the first Test will be impacted, too.
“England will be licking their lips at any sign of greenness if the bad weather persists. It’s not too dissimilar to England at this moment in time, and that plays into our hands,” Harmison said.
“If there is cloud cover in Brisbane or lateral movement in the surface, England have the two greatest bowlers of all time to exploit those conditions in (James) Anderson and (Stuart) Broad, along with Chris Woakes.
“If the first two pitches play more like English wickets and Joe Root wins the first couple of tosses, I truly believe we can make some early inroads and get on top quickly in the series.”
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