Barmy Army relishing tucking into tainted trio
England's Barmy Army have launched the opening salvo of the Ashes by flaunting incendiary shirts aimed at Australia's Sandpapergate stars - but the supporter group admits despite their best efforts, they don't expect the trio to crack.
In fact, Barmy Army co-founder Paul Burnham believes Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft can silence his army with a Shane Warne-esque performance, while admitting they've only ever been able to mentally disintegrate one player: Mitchell Johnson..
Paul Burnham says his group has been licking its lips at the thought of laying into the returning stars who were caught up in the ugly ball-tampering fiasco in South Africa last year.
The fan group's aggressive approach will be on display for all to see when they parade around Edgbaston in their official 2019 apparel, which brands the trio as "Clueless" in a rip-off of the board game Cluedo.
Stream the 2019 India Tour of West Indies on KAYO SPORTS. Every T20I, ODI and Test LIVE on your TV or favourite device. Get your 14-day free trial >
Mimicking the board game, the polos - which are for sale on the group's website for £28 ($A50) or £22.50 for a t-shirt - declare "all three of them" (were caught) "with the sandpaper. In broad daylight".
But despite the provocative t-shirts - and several new sandpaper-themed songs penned ahead of the Ashes opener - Burnham still admits he doesn't expect to be able to get under the Australians' skin and has made the surprise declaration that he felt the lengthy bans were excessive.
In fact, in his 25 years of belting out tunes designed to chip away at Australia's rugged stars, Burnham can only think of one example where it's worked: when star paceman Mitchell Johnson's game fell to pieces as the crowd launched into renditions of "he bowls to the left, he bowls to the right".
"But it's just a case, for us, of trying to make the home advantage count," Burnham said.
"We're more concentrating on getting behind our boys and trying to make them perform that little bit better, give them a yard of extra pace.
"Laying into (the Aussies) doesn't really work to be honest - it did with Johnson all those years ago, but that's the only example I can give after doing this for the past 25 years where winding up the opposition has any effect."
More often, he admits, it can galvanise England's Ashes foes - as it did with Warne in 2005, when he produced one of the greatest individual series of his career despite his troubled personal life being the subject of many Barmy Army songs after being splashed on the front pages of tabloid papers.
And if Warner, Smith and Bancroft can follow in Warne's footsteps and silence the home fans with brilliant cricket, then the boos will be replaced with applause from the notoriously spiteful Hollies stand faithful.
"If one of them gets 100 there'll be more people applauding than booing, and I don't think it's a case of winning over (the English fans)," Burnham said.
"My personal view and that of most of our guys is that they paid the penalty and there's no worse penalty than not being able to play for your country."
"That punishment I thought was quite harsh and now they're back they've got to expect a bit of banter, but of course they can win us back. They're not bad people."