Ricky Ponting's prematch claim that England were desperate in selecting Jonathan Trott has more than a shred of truth to it.
The failure of Ravi Bopara did lead to a slightly undignified scramble round the houses, as replacements were put forward by their various champions.
But in reality, was there more media speculation than actual panic?
Had Marcus Trescothick been willing to return, he would has strengthened England immesurably, and therefore sounding him out was a sensible, straightforward move. Indeed, not to have done so would have been positively negligent.
The calls for Mark Ramprakash were more than borderline embarrassing—one wonders when England's cricket correspondents will come into the real world. However, in the end, picking Trott ahead of Bopara seems the logical move, so I give credit to the selectors where it is due.
It's more interesting to ponder why the Australian skipper felt the need to ramp up the pressure on the latest South African in England's ranks.
I think it points up a difference between the two countries, perhaps the two cultures.
Ponting is, I believe, going all out to avoid losing another series to the poms. Having recovered the Ashes in emphatic fashion last time around, he wants to bury 2005 in the distant past. That's understandable.
I think, though, that Ponting is revealing his own desperation as the summer progresses, with attempts at mind games and psychological pressure coming to the fore as much as swing bowling or dogged batting.
Compared with the measured, public school tones of Andrew Strauss on the other side, Ponting seems to me to be going over the top, which is maybe a pointer to the importance attached to the game by the different sides. It seems to be a win-at-all-costs Australia against a hope-we-win-but-a-good-game England.
There's been traces of this since the, to me, repulsive spectacle of Steve Waugh's Australians "bonding" at Gallipoli. No matter how sincerely meant, or how heartfelt the tribute, to associate their fight for the Ashes with actual suffering and misery struck me then as below the belt, and I haven't seen any reason to change my mind since.
Perhaps someone can tell me better—I hope so.
And this is the point. England wants to win, and its fans want to win, but I don't think they are obsessed by it. Ponting and his Aussies certainly are.
Who, then, is the more desperate?
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