Opinion: My thoughts on the Ashes
We’re just under three weeks away from the First Test at Trent Bridge, the first of 10 Ashes Test matches in the space of a 6 month span.
Australia hasn’t won a series in England since 2001 – that’s 12 years ago! And I don’t think that’s about to change in their tour this year.
It comes down to a simple thing. England is just better than Australia. No matter what XI is chosen for Australia, it doesn’t really matter. It’s irrelevant. You can moan and whinge as much as you like about which XI the NSP choose but England will win anyway.
A few years ago, when Australia was at their peak, they had a really strong team. It was a golden generation, with stars galore. We had two amazing spinners in one era. If only Stuart MacGill was a 22 year old right now.
We had McGrath and Warne. And Langer and Hayden. And Ponting and Gilchrist. And you get the point. We had a litany of stars.
I expected at least one of Hussey or Ponting to make it to this year’s Ashes but selflessly, they called a curtain on their glittering careers last summer. For me, those retirements thwarted any faint hopes of Australia winning this upcoming series.
As much as it pains me to say this, the tables have turned. We are effectively where England were and they are close to where we were a few years ago.
That’s how sport is. You can’t be good forever. Sport is cyclical. We had our turn. Now it’s their turn. It’s their time to shine.
I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic. I’m trying to be as impartial and rational as I can. It is what it is.
The only way we have a chance of winning either series is if England lose multiple players to injury. That really would throw a spanner in the works. But I’d be callous to wish that upon anyone.
Of course this England team still has a way to go to be recognised as a ‘great team’. In fact, they probably aren’t even the best team in the world right now – South Africa are! But if they win both home and away Ashes series, it will help build a legacy.
Australia’s 5-0 whitewash in the 2006-07 summer, in many ways, marked the end of an era. Warne, Langer, McGrath retired in the 5th Test and so did Martyn earlier on in the series.
Some people are of the belief that while England might win their home series comfortably, the return series in Australia will be a lot closer. I don’t necessarily think that will be the case. Remember, they just beat us 3-1 in Australia last time they toured here. All three matches that they won were by more than an innings. A reminder, this happened ON AUSTRALIAN SOIL. That was unthinkable in yesteryear.
Home ground advantage isn’t as big a deal in an Ashes series as it is in say Border-Gavasker series. The pitches are so different and advantageous to the home team. In the most recent series, Australia thrashed India 4-0 in Australia only for India to return the exact same scoreline when they played in the subcontinent earlier this year. They proof is in the pudding.
So I think in Ashes series, the better team will win and conditions don’t play as big a factor. I’m not saying it’s totally irrelevant either.
Jimmy Anderson is arguably the best bowler in the world in swing-friendly conditions, along with Dale Steyn of course.
As for the rotation policy, for me, if a bowler can’t back up from Test match to Test match because they aren’t fit enough, they shouldn’t even be playing international cricket. Bowlers should only be omitted for injury or bad performance. Not rest. You don’t rest a player in something as significant as an Ashes Test Match. The Ashes isn’t a holiday. Can you imagine England ‘resting’ Jimmy Anderson for an Ashes Test? Or Miami Heat resting LeBron James for Game 7 of the NBA Finals because he was ‘too tired’. I sure as hell can’t.
As for our bowling, I think we’re pretty good. Fast bowling is our strength mainly because we have depth in that department. John Invarerity and the NSP have opted with Starc, Siddle, Pattinson, Bird, Faulkner and Harris. I like it.
I don’t like our batting, however. We only have one ‘big fish’, and even then, he has a degenerative back condition that he has had to manage carefully. Skipper Michael Clarke has been a run machine since taking over as captain. He has led by example and been positive, even audacious, in some of his decisions. England will know if they can get Clarke out early, they’ll go along a long way to winning the Test.
Meanwhile, Trott and Cook are England’s most prized top order wickets. But if you think you can rest on your laurels if you get them out cheaply, you’re foolhardy. You still have to get through Bell and then two players that can score runs quickly. Pietersen and Prior, who is probably the best keeper-batsman in the world at current, can take the match by the scruff of the neck. And they bat deep too, with Broad and Swann at 8 and 9.
Michael Clarke keeps on saying prior to a series how great their preparation was. We want a great performance, not a great preparation. It’ll all well and good preparing well but it means nothing when you get humiliated 4-0.
My tip for the England series is 4-0 or 3-1 if I’m being optimistic. I don’t want to give a tip on the Australia series just yet. I’d like to re-evaluate after this series, but I’m thinking about a 3-1 scoreline in England’s favour as well.
While I don’t think we can win either series, I think we can still play with a lot of pride. Choose our best available XI and perform to our best and have no regrets, leave no stone unturned.