Melbourne, Nov.18 : New Zealand cricket captain Daniel Vettori has described his Australian counterpart Ricky Ponting, all-rounder Andrew Symonds and opener Matthew Hayden as world cricket's most aggressive nigglers.
Vettori also ruffled more feathers when he claimed Ponting was often "spoiling for a fight".
He also insisted that he was not surprised that last summer's volatile battle between Australia and India had descended into a bitter slanging match.
"If a team was going to play the game hard and stand up to everything the Aussies hurled at them, there was going to be trouble," the Daily Telegraph quotes Vettori as writing in his new book, Turning Point.
"Ponting led his team very aggressively and probably hasn't often had to face an opposition team that's been just as aggressive in response. Add to the mix Matthew Hayden and Symonds - who are always at you on the field - and you've probably got the three most overtly aggressive players in world cricket. They like to get under the skin of their opponents, whereas the other guys in the Aussie team just get on with the game," Vettori added.
Most cricket observers believe a depleted New Zealand side will be lambs to the slaughter against a wounded Australian team baying for blood this summer. For the last decade, Australia have had a reputation for being "captain killers" with their ploy of targeting touring skippers.
But Vettori has turned the tables and clearly wants to fight fire with fire starting in the first Test at the Gabba on Thursday.