Selector opens up September 10, 2006

Hughes clarifies stance on England-Aussie mateship

Cricinfo staff

'For him [Lee] to give a smile, it doesn't mean he's being friendly' - Merv Hughes © Getty Images

Merv Hughes, the former Australian fast bowler and current national selector, has clarified his stance on the attitude of the Australian players during last year's Ashes series. Hughes had earlier attributed the players' friendliness towards their English counterparts as one of the reasons for Australia's loss.

"Get this straight, I haven't got a problem with the way the Australian team plays its cricket," Hughes told The Age website. Hughes had previously said the attitude introduced into the Australian team by Allan Border in the late 1980s and early 1990s had been lost and he felt Shane Warne's friendship with Kevin Pietersen had played a part in Australia's defeat.

"Warney [Shane Warne] likes to get into a bloke's brain and toy with them, and I just don't think he could do that with Pietersen," Hughes said. "It would have been interesting to see their head-to-head battle had they not played at Hampshire together. Warney's attitude towards Pietersen was pretty good, but Pietersen feels comfortable against Warney because he knows him so well. He didn't feel threatened. But I've got no problems with the players being matey off the ground."

Brett Lee and Andrew Flintoff created the image of the series when Flintoff walked up to Lee to console him after Australia lost the second Test by two runs. "Brett is there to intimidate the opposition," Hughes said. "I think that he does that ... For him to give a smile, it doesn't mean he's being friendly. He's thinking, 'I'd hate to be in your shoes', and the batsman knows it. Brett Lee and Flintoff - You know when they get on the ground, they're both going to be as tough as nails."

Lee defended his attitude by saying it was how he played. He said he should not have to match his menacing bowling with a frightening on-field persona. "It's not life and death," he said. "We're going to play hard, but I'm not going to stop having a beer with someone at the end of a day or having a chat to them on the field if I feel like it."

Lee and his team-mates have a busy schedule laid out for the next few months. Australia start a tri-series against India and West Indies on Tuesday before the Champions Trophy in India in October and the Ashes.