FORMER Australia captain Allan Border has taken a swipe at England’s cosmopolitan Ashes squad, branding Andrew Strauss’s side the “Empire XI”.
On Monday, Australia announced an unusually large 17-man squad ahead of the first Test which starts on 25 November, heightening the suspicion that captain Ricky Ponting is still far from certain of his best XI.
By contrast, England’s starting line-up is all but set in stone, to the extent that their first choice bowling attack have flown straight to Brisbane, the venue for the first Test, in order to acclimatise to conditions, rather than participate in England’s final warm-up match against Australia A which started last night.
Border is concerned that the usual Pom bashing that traditionally precedes an Ashes series has been conspicuous by its absence and questioned whether a side containing South African-born stars Strauss, Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior, as well as talented Irish left-handed batsman Eoin Morgan, should fly under an English flag.
“England are sailing under the radar beautifully – let’s get stuck into them a bit,” Border smiled.
“I don’t know whether they should be called England – it should be the Empire XI.
“They got any Poms in their side? They are all South Africans and Irishmen – let’s question where these blokes are actually from.”
Border, meanwhile, said if anything, naming 17 players showed Australia’s depth rather than the selectors’ uncertainty.
“We’ve got 17 guys who could all play in that first Test,” he said.
“That’s a good thing, rather than scraping the bottom of the barrel.
“The selectors had no alternative but to name a big squad.
“We’ve still got some Shield games to play and there’s probably some spots up for grabs.
“But I don’t see any dramas with it.
“I am surprised by the media. It has been very negative.
“I am wondering if Australia should bother turning up, that’s how bad we are going according to what’s been said in the media.”