London:Ricky Ponting's rant about England's alleged lack of respect for the spirit of the game rings hollow because Australia is the team which violates it most, said Ashes winning coach Duncan Fletcher.
Writing in 'The Guardian,' the Zimbabwe-born Fletcher, who guided England to 2005 Ashes victory, said Ponting's homily on spirit of the game was a manifestation of his frustration after Australia failed to separate the last English pair in the first Ashes Test and settled for a draw.
"England will be delighted they left Cardiff with a draw - and no doubt amused that they head for Lord's with a lecture about the spirit of the game from Ricky Ponting, of all people, still ringing in their ears," Fletcher wrote.
"If any side in the world doesn't play within the spirit of the game it's Ponting's Australians, yet here he is sitting in judgment on England because he's frustrated that his bowlers failed to complete the job," he said.
James Anderson and Monty Panesar batted out the last 40 minutes, during which England twice sent in physio Stev McCaig and 12th man Bilal Shafayat in an obvious attempt to waste time, much to Ponting's exasperation.
Fletcher said he did not condone what England did even if it not really illegal.
"But let's not get carried away. What England did ate up maybe an over at most. If the batsmen had wasted the same amount of time talking between overs, no one would have batted an eyelid. Instead we're left with the ridiculous situation of being told off by an Australian captain for transgressing cricket's spirit - a notion he seems to only vaguely understand himself," Fletcher said.
Fletcher counter-attacked, saying Ponting set even a worse example for the "schoolboys watching at home."
"...can the Australians really argue that England's tactics are worse than the way Ponting places pressure on the umpires and makes them look bad in front of a huge crowd and TV audience? And we haven't even mentioned Australia's sledging.
"The way he objected after Aleem Dar rightly turned down a catch at silly point off Paul Collingwood was typical. Back in 2005 Ponting and his team were over-aggressive towards the umpires on a regular basis, and he was at it again here," Fletcher said.
"Ponting has to be careful. Someone needs to sit down and ask him what he understands by the spirit of the game. The way he plays is definitely not in the spirit. And if the Australians would have you think that they'd have done things differently on Sunday evening, then pigs might soon be spotted in the skies above St John's Wood," he quipped.