The furore surrounding Graeme Swann’s comments about players being up their backsides shows how badly the bottom has dropped out of the English Ashes tour.
The fresh controversy comes a day after the English off-spinner stunned the cricket world by announcing his retirement with two Tests left in the series.
A tour that seemed full of promise for England is now in disarray.
The Ashes are gone and Australia are on track for a 5-0 whitewash.
“This tour for England was already a disaster…. Now it’s a bloody joke,” former English captain Michael Vaughan tweeted on Monday.
Speaking to English media on Sunday after his retirement announcement, Swann spoke strongly about fellow cricketers who do not appreciate what they have.
“Some people playing the game at the minute have no idea how far up their own backsides they are,” Swann said.
“It will bite them on the arse one day and, when it does, I hope they look back and are embarrassed about how they carry on.”
Vaughan and fellow former English player Derek Pringle were among those who are convinced that Swann was referring to current members of the side.
That prompted several exchanges on Twitter through Monday morning.
“Don’t jump to conclusions Vaughney. I wasn’t talking about the England dressing room or anyone in it. You too bbc,” Swann tweeted.
In another post, Swann took aim at Pringle with: “just because Derek Pringles writes something I find it astonishing that people buy into it?! Making stuff up sells papers I suppose.”
Just because Derek Pringles writes something I find it astonishing that people buy into it?! Making stuff up sells papers I suppose
— Graeme Swann (@Swannyg66) December 22, 2013
But Vaughan and Pringle were not about to back down. “We all make mistakes @Swannyg66 .. I make plenty … I am afraid on this occasion you have made one,” Vaughan tweeted. Pringle added: “Swann could have made it clear that he was not talking about england but didn’t.”
We all make mistakes @Swannyg66 .. I make plenty … I am afraid on this occasion you have made one …
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) December 23, 2013
Spinner Monty Panesar, who will take Swann’s place in the team for the Boxing Day Test, played a straight bat about the controversy.
“He’s probably, I don’t know, referring to a local football team back home maybe,” the left-armer said.
“We know Swanny, we know where his heart is – he’s right behind us and we’re right behind him.”
Panesar is also adamant that the English take great pride in representing their country.
“When you’re playing for England, it is the pinnacle for every sportsman,” he said.
“In no way (do we) take it for granted, absolutely not.
“We are all disappointed, the way the results have been.”
Panesar said the timing of the retirement was Swann’s right.
He paid rich tribute, noting Swann took 255 Test wickets compared to Australian legend Richie Benaud, who snared 248 with his leg-spin.
“That’s the elite class … he’s obviously an icon cricketer, (he’s) been a match winner for England and probably one of the best spin bowlers in the modern game,” he said.
“We loved him to bits when he played with us – he had great character and his sense of humour was good.”
Panesar will return to the side after he played in the second Test and then was dropped for Perth.
Swann’s retirement prompted England to announce spin-bowling reinforcements for the Boxing Day and Sydney Tests.
Leg-spinner Scott Borthwick will join the team in Melbourne and off-spinner James Tredwell will go to Sydney.