All’s fair in love and war.
All’s fair in love and war.

‘Don’t like rumours I’m hearing’

BOB Willis believes the sledging in the Ashes has become "unpleasant" and that Australia's players "need to learn to behave themselves on the field".

Former England captain Willis is in Australia following England's fortunes and says he is hearing that "particularly personal" remarks are being directed towards the tourists, including to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.

Speaking on Sky Sports Cricket's Ashes Debate show, Willis urged the umpires to step in if the home side's verbals stray too far.

"I understand that the sledging on the field is getting particularly unpleasant and particularly personal, directed at one or two individuals in the England side," he said.

"Without going into any details, one of those individuals is Bairstow - I don't like the rumours I'm hearing about it and the Australians really do need to learn to behave themselves on the field.

"I don't mind the odd word, fielders round the bat saying 'you can't play' or anything like that, but when things get personal, I can't be doing with that.

"I think that if the umpires hear anything of that nature then they should be reporting it to the match referee."

Australia spinner Nathan Lyon spoke about "ending players' careers" before the series - which the hosts lead 2-0 after winning the day-night Test in Adelaide - got underway, while David Warner compared the Ashes to a "war" before admitting he regretted his choice of words.

Why can’t we be friends?
Why can’t we be friends?

"I expected one of the Aussies [to do it]," added Willis.

"I think on the last tour it was Warner, and on past tours we've heard Glenn McGrath saying they're going to win 5-0.

"So we expected that in the press and we also expect it on the field - I don't particularly mind any of that. I don't see why a professional cricketer should be bothered by any of that on the field.

"Even when Michael Clarke said Australia were going to break James Anderson's arm - it's not very pleasant but I'd just turn a blind eye to that if I were Anderson."

However, Australian cricket greats Jason Gillespie and Damien Fleming responded to Willis' declarations on Friday, declaring it is not just the Australian players who have a reputation for threatening to go to far with their on-field sledges.

Fleming told Melbourne's RSN he believes the sledging has been no different in the first two tests than it has in previous Ashes series.

"The whinge-o-metre from the Poms is in that extreme heat," Fleming said.

"Bob Willis came in again last night blaming us - it's both teams. It starts earlier now because it's on social media as well so unless the boards get involved but I don't know what they can say to ex-players and journos.

"It's both teams. Joe Root walked Peter Handscomb and Nathan Lyon off after one day's play and I thought, 'What's going on? Where's the other senior player to pull Joe Root away and why's Joe Root doing it?'

"I don't reckon it's Joe Root and Steve Smith's natural personalities to do that yet they are going right into the opposition faces.

"There's no way it's one-way traffic and for me I don't think it's much different that it's been in the past."

Fleming also highlighted Jimmy Anderson's hypocrisy for labelling Australia "bullies" before going on to claim England's sledging campaign was behind the Australian captain's meagre returns with the bat in Adelaide.

"I just didn't get that from James Anderson's end," he said.

"The one where England had a catching position for Steven Smith and Anderson was there, can (umpire) Aleem Dar just tell them, 'Listen boys, we've got yellow and red cards now, you've got a warning'. Can the umpires please control the game. Is there any chance of that?"

Meanwhile, Aussie pace legend Mitchell Johnson has questioned if a divide is beginning to open between former England captain Alastair Cook and the rest of the team.

It is looks as if captain Joe Root has not been consulting Cook over key decisions, leaving the opening batsman on the outer.

He said Cook looks "disconnected" from his teammates.

"I wonder if Root is using Alastair Cook enough as a senior player," Johnson wrote.

'He has been there, done that. I'm sure Cook will have plenty to say in team meetings but he looks a bit disconnected from the group on the field.

"I don't know if he wants to be involved but he could be very helpful. Instead, although I don't know how much we can read into it, Root is going to his other senior players like Jimmy Anderson and Jonny Bairstow."

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