Australia coach John Buchanan has launched a stinging attack on England's Kevin Pietersen, claiming the South African-born batsman is not a team player.
'Pietersen Not A Team Player' - Australia Coach
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia - 29/12/06 Australia coach John Buchanan talks to the media Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Jason O'Brien Livepic
Pietersen has been England's most consistent batsman during the disastrous Ashes defence but has been called aloof and criticised for exposing tailenders to the strike at the end of innings.
"He certainly talks about himself as a team player -- I don't personally see any evidence of that," Buchanan told a news conference on Friday.
The Australian coach said he noticed Pietersen always fielded in the outfield away from his team mates and that he was one of five players who did not attend the squad's Christmas Day lunch.
"It surprises me that he always seems to be distanced from the rest of the group. I wonder whether the criticism of him is because he's different from the group.
"Difference is important in a team dynamic, we have some different players in our team, but it's how the difference is managed."
Buchanan's comments came after England lost the fourth test in Melbourne inside three days to trail 4-0 in the series.
Pietersen asked to be promoted up the order to bat at four after complaining that he was sick of batting with tailenders after coming in at five in each of his previous innings in the series.
The experiment failed when Pietersen was bowled by Stuart Clark for one and England coach Duncan Fletcher later revealed Pietersen had been offered the chance to bat higher up but turned it down.
Buchanan also took aim at England captain Andrew Flintoff, saying he had not imposed himself on the series in the same manner as Australian skipper Ricky Ponting.
"That's important when you set yourself up to be the leader, the go-to man, when anything is required with good decisions, a good innings, a good spell, whatever. You need to deliver," Buchanan said.
"You see that from Ricky Ponting, generally he'll lead from the front and he'll lead by example.
"You've just got to walk the walk and I know Flintoff's tried, but it hasn't worked."
Buchanan said he was expecting a better performance from England in next week's final test in Sydney but warned the Australians were in no mood for charity and were determined to complete a series clean sweep.
"One of the missions of the five-match test series was to re-establish a gap between us and what is supposedly the second-best team in the world," he said.
"Right at this moment we're a little bit devoid of emotion towards the opposition.
"We've been tested at certain times (this series), but England haven't been able to sustain their skills through the course of the test matches, so we're quite looking forward to that in Sydney."
Australia have named an unchanged 12-man squad for the final Ashes test against England starting in Sydney on Tuesday.
The selectors kept faith with the party that secured a crushing innings and 99-run victory within three days at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday to take a 4-0 lead in the series.
Australia need to win the final test at the Sydney Cricket Ground to be the first team to claim an Ashes whitewash since the 1920-21 English tourists were heavily beaten.
Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist, Stuart Clark, Michael Clarke, Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Justin Langer, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Andrew Symonds, Shane Warne.
© Reuters 2006.