Giles' whingeing about the backstabbers shows tell-tale lack of fighting spirit

While it is true the left-armed practitioner of spin bowling took particularly heavy critical shots after the 239-run defeat, some of his comments this week have been dismaying even for those already despairing of England's ability to compete with the Australians not only as world-class cricketers but fully grown-up professional sportsmen.

Almost everything Giles said was, in terms of the competitive psychology required for next week's resumption of hostilities at Edgbaston, just about unbridled folly, but one passage of self-pity verged on the shocking.

It suggested, by strong implication, that such commentators as Ian Botham and Michael Atherton, both former captains of England, were among those operating with extreme prejudice when they criticised the Lord's effort. Said Giles: "Unfortunately, it feels like a lot of ex (England) players don't want us to win the Ashes, either because they didn't or because they were the last people to do it. That might sound bitter, but that's the way it feels."

As a matter of record, Botham tasted ultimate glory against the Australians at Headingley back in the Eighties. Atherton sweated blood as an England captain and an opening batsman of huge commitment and great ability, but he didn't win the Ashes.

However, only someone with a bad case of failed perspective would begin to question the right of Atherton and Botham, professional broadcasters now, to criticise the kind of surrender that occurred at Lord's. Apart from anything else, both men would almost certainly have proved themselves more than handy at the Alamo.

Where all this leaves us in relation to the current England team is depressing indeed. Giles is not some tiro figure feeling his way in the big time. He is 32 years old. He has travelled the world on behalf of England. Sometimes, as a slow bowler plainly not of the highest class, he has played well. On other occasions he has performed with a woeful lack of bite and penetration. One of the latter efforts was at Lord's, where Shane Warne, admittedly an inhabitant of another planet in terms of skill and gut instinct for the battle, reannounced himself as one of the game's most compelling figures. This left Giles in a difficult position, one that permitted only one professional option. It was to suck up the criticism and do the kind of work Warne put in before the first Test.

Instead of sucking up Giles has been mewling down. He tells us, he spent time texting one of his arch-critics, the former Zimbabwe captain Dave Houghton - and the journalist who recorded his thought that with Giles performing as he did at Lord's England would be playing the Australians with 10 men.

From Giles this is stupefyingly sensitive behaviour from a man who, if the selectors don't have second thoughts, will be facing the Aussies again so soon. The weakness displayed by Giles in dealing with criticism, which however stinging could scarcely have been unexpected, will no doubt have been noted by the Australian's sledging sub-committee.

Here is Giles on the need to fire off perhaps the most ill-considered texts transmitted in cricket since Warne allegedly last felt a Lothario mood coming on: "I texted him [Houghton] yesterday. It was a terrible thing to say, especially for a guy who has been an international player. It's times like that you think, 'If this is what people think, bugger them. If they want to pick Gary Keedy at No 8, let them. If they want to pick Gareth Batty and think he's a better batsman, let them'. But then the other part of you, says, 'Sod them, I'll get on with it'." Inevitable question: on this form - on and off the field - who would want any part of the variously unprepossessing parts of Giles? What the Warwickshire bowler's behaviour indicates most of all is the scarily soft underbelly of this England team. They were happy to talk themselves up in the build-up to the first Test. Now some of them are squealing because their performance makes it impossible not to talk them down - at least on the evidence of the Lord's outcome.

It is the way of English cricket. In the recent tour of South Africa there was no reluctance to nominate English heroes, albeit on a provisional basis dictated by the sensible reservation that until they met the Australians in Test action their pretensions to be the best team in the world were largely untested. Now they have been tried, and found seriously wanting in vital areas of the team, and not least slow bowling, they seem to resent the consequences. It's too bad. International cricket, like any front-rank sport, is not generous with the ego support of underperforming professionals and Giles' statements suggest a deep and disturbing state of denial.

After Jim Bowie died at the Alamo his mother said that she would wager no wounds were found in her son's back. This is perhaps the least we can expect of England's cricketers at this critical time. That, and a prompt resolve to turn their back on any form of whining. Ashley Giles' talk of stabbings in the back is embarrassing - everywhere, that is, except the Australian dressing-room. There, they will see it as still another gift from across the corridor.

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