'Gobful' of abuse has no impact on Ponting

Captain's mature response to flak from fans contrasts starkly with pompous ECB
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As if the Ashes needed any more heating up, Ricky Ponting admitted yesterday that he was involved in a row with a fan. The altercation, probably entirely understandable given the propensity for boorishness of many England followers, happened at Edgbaston as Ponting was leaving the field after being dismissed in Australia's first innings.

"There were some words exchanged," said Australia's captain yesterday. "The spectator was leaning over the front of the grandstand and gave me a bit of a gobful when I got out. As it turned out, he was later thrown out of the ground – so it would appear he was probably in the wrong."

The incident put into perspective the needless abuse to which Ponting has been subjected in this English summer. His forbearance and his willingness to talk about it has been as wonderful as the series itself. Ponting, who can be a handful on the field occasionally especially when appealing for catches, never ducks an issue.

"It's probably a security thing more than anything else. Where we had to walk on and off the ground the other day was very close to the spectators – so if there is one place in the ground where a security guard should have been standing it was right there where that spectator was. It probably could have been avoided. It's been pretty well-documented over the last few weeks that I've probably copped a little bit from the crowd. But it certainly wasn't a big deal at all, just a few words he directed at me.

"It's part and parcel of what we do. It happens everywhere around the world, and it's no bigger deal here in this series than what it has been in others I've played. I've actually really enjoyed the spectator participation in the series. I've always said the Barmy Army are the best group of sporting supporters around the world. They come to the cricket to enjoy themselves; sometimes, it's small minorities that make days a bit disappointing."

Such a mature and reflective reaction was in direct contradiction to the poses being adopted both by the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Barmy Army. One has reacted in a ludicrously pompous fashion, the other has been needlessly offended.

"I think you can definitely go too far the other way," said Ponting. "You're not going to stop someone having something to say. Let's remember these complaints haven't come from us. It's been the administrators and some of the venues that have been a bit disappointed in the way the crowds have reacted. The participation of the spectators has been good fun. There's been a bit of banter, Australian supporters as well, Barmy Army – going back and forward to each other. It probably adds to the games." And after dealing with this he had to pick the most important team of his captaincy.