'Character is missing' - Hussain January 6, 2007

Former captains slam England

Cricinfo staff

England's players needed more inner drive, according to Nasser Hussain © Getty Images

The England players were pampered and lacked character during their 5-0 Ashes defeat and were beaten by a far more down-to-earth Australia side, according to several former England captains. Andrew Flintoff's constant talk of his team's "character" was disputed by Nasser Hussain, who said the on-field performances proved Flintoff wrong.

"You can have as many plans as you like, but when Matthew Hayden's in your ear, Ricky Ponting's coming at you, Glenn McGrath's coming at you and Shane Warne's coming at you, it's not your ability that will be tested, it's your character, your heart," Hussain told Sky Sports. "You can have all the big speeches you want. There's an art of captaincy and there's an art to coaching and it is a team game, but only one person bowls the ball and when you go out there to bat at three or four you don't go out there with your team, you go out on your own."

Hussain said the England players appeared unwilling to get their hands dirty with hard work and sacrifice. "I've travelled with the Australians a little bit, I've been staying in the same hotels and they get on a little minibus every morning, Warney with a fag on the go and the windows rolled down," he said. "England get on this big bus with security guards and 45 backroom staff. They're all pampered, their bags are looked after and everything OK.

"There's no need for them to look over their shoulders ... and there's Warney, bag over his shoulder, shirt hanging out. Australia just do it themselves. They're just a down-to-earth bunch and you could see that out there at the end when they were just sat there with their families. They just say: 'We might be superstars, but that's not why we do it. We've been asked by our captain to win the series 5-0 and we've done our job, no more than that. We don't want any MBEs'."

Ian Botham said the team's preparation was clearly flawed. "What happens is Duncan Fletcher says you've got three-and-a-half months to go and get fit and I know a lot of players who will think 'that's all right! I've got three months to go down the pub with my mates, go and watch the football and do a bit of this and that'," Botham said. "I think that needs to be policed a lot more. I hate to say it, but it needs to be done."

Botham said an indication of the team's lack of initiative was when Steve Harmison was asked where he went from here and replied that he would wait to be told by Duncan Fletcher. "I cringed," Botham said. "What about you saying 'I want to be on top of my game, I'm going to ask to go on Durham's pre-season tour, get some fitness and some bowling in there'."

Bob Willis said the team was in trouble before the first Test even began. "The selectors made the same mistake they made four years ago by picking injured players who hadn't been playing regular cricket," Willis said. "They need to find the balance between playing enough so that they are prepared for Test series and not playing too much. It is a delicate balance to find but England did not get it right this time and they must do so in the future."