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‘Banter is part of our game’
- Australians know where to draw the line, claims Ponting

Sydney: Australia captain Ricky Ponting continued the fractious build-up to this week’s first Test against South Africa by saying he sees nothing wrong with players engaging in banter.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) warned players from both sides that they risked charges of misconduct if they continued the sledging that has dominated the build-up to the series.

The teams have been trading insults, with South Africa skipper Graeme Smith claiming Australia have lost their edge after the Ashes defeat and Shane Warne saying the tourists will need a psychologist after the series.

“Banter is part of our game and so far the build-up to this Test series looks like it is going to be pretty intense,” Ponting said in Perth on Tuesday.

“But it has just been some pretty light-hearted banter. I’m pretty comfortable with what’s happened so far in the press.”

Ponting said the build-up had certainly added extra spice to the series but added that the players were aware of the limits before the ICC warning.

“Our on-field record speaks for itself over the last couple of years and we’ll make sure when we go into the game on Friday that we’re upholding the spirit of the game as best as we possibly can,” Ponting said.

“All the Australian players certainly know where the line in the sand is drawn and as long as no one’s outside of that we should be fine.”

The ICC’s warning drew sharp rebukes in Australia with media commentators and former players criticising the sport’s world governing body.

Former Australia fast bowlers Jeff Thomson and Terry Alderman said the ICC was being distracted by minor matters while ignoring bigger issues.

“They do nothing about blokes chucking, they do nothing about all this other stuff, they are more worried about words,” Thomson told an Australian newspaper.

Alderman disagrees with the ICC’s threats to players.

“They are putting the cart before the horse, they are almost saying there is going to be problems because of what has been written and said by players,” Alderman said.

“Well that’s ridiculous. Let the game be, for goodness sake.”

The newspaper’s chief cricket writer Malcolm Conn described the ICC’s actions as hypocritical.

“How can the game’s governing body possibly complain about what is essential promotion of the game when it is standing idly by as Test countries self destruct'” he said.

“By failing to act on the Zimbabwe crisis and allowing Bangladesh to continue competing at Test level, the ICC is sponsoring the free fall of international playing standards.”

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