Rogers brushes off Agnew claims
Chris Rogers has brushed off accusations from the English commentator Jonathan Agnew that Australia's players failed to honour Phillip Hughes by maintaining their hard-nosed game in the Test series against India.
Agnew has claimed that the team led by Michael Clarke and then Steven Smith missed an opportunity to rid the game of sledging in the wake of Hughes' death, declaring that Clarke's eulogy for Hughes - which said the 25-year-old batsman's spirit would stay with the team - had not been followed up by actions on the field.
Responding to Agnew's allegations, Rogers said Australia's players had remained true to the uncompromising way they played the game best. He also reckoned that while there had been the occasional unsavoury scene during the four Tests, there had also been plenty of mutual respect between Australia and India.
"Looking from the outside it looks like a few flash points and a bit of spite but that's just the nature of Test cricket," Rogers said. "Everyone goes out there and competes as hard as they can. At times the anger does rise to the surface. I'd like to think it was pretty hard fought but everybody afterwards still gets on and what happens the field stays on the field.
"I think there was still a lot of respect. India gave as good as they got and we like that. We enjoyed the way they played. Virat [Kohli] was exceptional, led from the front and he wanted that kind of competition. Everyone is desperate to win and sometimes these things happen. With the fast bowlers we have in our side, it's about being aggressive, getting to the opposition. I wouldn't think things would change, particularly with the Ashes coming up."
Agnew's words, contained in an interview with Radio Times magazine, met with an angry response in Australia on Tuesday. His conflation of Hughes' death with the issue of sledging brought reactions varying between dismay and disgust. Cricket Australia declined to dignify his views with a response.
"I have that Michael Clarke speech tucked away ready to throw at the Australians," Agnew had said. "If this is really how you feel then let's see how you play.
"Michael Clarke said very clearly that Hughes's memory would run through the team, and would be in the way they would play their cricket. Well, I haven't seen evidence of that. I really hoped that out of this tragedy might have come some good. But the players haven't behaved any better, and I think that's a real disappointment.
"It's all you hear on a cricket field: 'Knock his head off, knock his head off.' There's a good chance someone shouted 'Knock his head off' at that particular ball. Cricket has gone too far. It shouldn't be posturing, abusing. I know there has been a lot of bad blood between Australia and India for some years now, but it was an opportunity."
In an emotional eulogy at Hughes' funeral, Clarke had pledged: ''Phillip's spirit, which is now part of our game for ever, will act as a custodian of the sport around the world.''
Agnew's view about what that spirit of cricket entailed contrasts notably with that of Clarke's predecessor as captain, Ricky Ponting. He wrote in an ESPNcricinfo column that the best way to honour Hughes was to play the game hard, but fair, to not take a backward step and to continue accompanying bouncers with an aggressive attitude.
"Australia can't lose sight of the fact that last summer they established a brand of cricket that will be very hard to beat at home," Ponting wrote. "What Michael Clarke, Darren Lehmann and the players put together against England stands as a real blueprint for how they want to play their Test cricket, especially in home conditions.
"They forged an identity for themselves as a team and the way they wanted to go about playing their cricket. It's important they build on that and continue to play the hard-nosed, aggressive Australian way. I'd love to see Mitchell Johnson run in and bowl a bouncer first ball of the Test match.
"I don't want to see anyone get hurt, but the bouncer's part of the fabric of the game, and if they're not playing in the aggressive way they did last summer then they're not actually playing in what I believe is the spirit of Test match cricket. In his speech at the funeral, Michael talked about the spirit of the game and how important it is, and to me that spirit is a really aggressive nature and attitude, a fierce will to win."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig