The Ashes 2005 August 29, 2005

McGrath questions England's use of substitutes

Cricinfo staff

Glenn McGrath: 'Test cricket to us is played by the guys who are in the team' © Getty Images

Glenn McGrath has criticised England's use of substitute fielders in the Ashes series. McGrath, who missed the fourth Test owing to an elbow ailment, felt the policy had cost Ricky Ponting and he said it was against the spirit of the game.

Ponting was docked 75% of his match fee for his verbal dual with two England players and Duncan Fletcher, the coach, after he was run out by Gary Pratt, the substitute, on the third day of the game. The Australian side objected to England's use of county fielders in the series, thereby enabling their bowlers to get off the field.

"It's something that is quite frustrating and annoying to us because basically we feel it's not in the spirit of the game," McGrath told Sydney radio station 2KY. "The only time you should go off during a Test match is obviously if you need to go off for an injury or pop off for a quick toilet break. That's it. Test cricket to us is played by the guys who are in the team. If you are not fit enough or you are looking at ways to keep your players fresh, I think that's not quite in the spirit of the game. As a player myself, I'd keep playing. You would have to drag me off the field to go off the field."

Ponting, who later apologised for his outburst, said Australia had formally raised the substitute issue with match referees three times this tour and was disappointed that the umpires were not monitoring the matter more closely. "There's been lots of talk about policing it and patrolling it," he said, "but nothing's happened so far."

However, Michael Vaughan, the England captain, insisted that his team were playing well within the rules. "I mean Simon [Jones] was in hospital having an X-ray," Vaughan said. "We just had a fielder on, he ran Ricky out with great throw. It was a great piece of fielding. "[The bowlers] take a lot of liquid on board and sometimes you just have to nick to the loo."