England captain Andrew Strauss believes that his side have got the perfect blend of players to take to Australia next week ahead of the Ashes although he is no doubt that his team face a stiff test if they are to retain the Ashes.
England have benefited from consistency in squad selection in the last few months and Strauss told Cricket World:
“I think we have got a nice balance to our side to be honest, we have got a really good group of guys - not just skill but some really sound individuals as well so that is going to be important in Australia.
“You get tested on many levels out there and you need to make sure you pass all those tests. I am very comfortable with the squad we have got; we have got every reason to think we will do well out there.”
As always, there have been a lot of predictions and speculation about the Ashes series, but Strauss feels that it is time to get on with the action and perform well against Ricky Ponting’s young Australian team.
“The fact of the matter is you can talk until you are blue in the face about how good our prospects are and how ready and willing we are to go out there and win the Ashes. Ultimately it counts for nothing unless we go out there and perform well so we are really looking forward to hitting the ground running and making sure we start the tour well.”
The last time that England were in Australia the likes of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Matthew Hayden ensured that Australia regained The Ashes in emphatic style as they cruised to a 5-0 whitewash. Strauss does not feel the inexperienced members of this team have much to gain from the mistakes of 2006 and 2007.
“I do not think we need to dwell too much on that series,” he said during an event to launch Austin Reed's Q club in London. “A lot of things went wrong, we gradually got taken apart by Australia and all credit to the way they went about their business.
“The most important thing to realise is it is not going to be easy. I do not think anyone thinks it is going to be easy, (we need to) be prepared for a very tough series and over the long term we may be surprised that it ends up being easier than we expect.”
England are in a much better position than they were in 2006 as they are now above the Australians in the ICC Test rankings. They had a very successful summer, with series victories over Bangladesh and Pakistan and to make matters worse for Ponting, for the first time since 1988, Australia have lost their last three Test matches in a row.
Strauss feels that this positive situation will help England prepare for the first game more effectively.
“It is only (a positive) in the sense that Australia have got some question marks that they need to deal with. They have lost a few Test matches so they will be preoccupied with those question marks to a certain extent. It is a very different kettle of fish in Australia, they are a very proud sporting nation, they don’t lose very often at home and we are expecting them to be a very very stern test for us.”
Strauss is looking for his side to achieve their personal targets in order to retain the Ashes. There is a unique blend of personal fulfillment and team work that each side must ensure they achieve in order to consistently win matches.
“There is the team goal of winning the ashes but then it is how you do that, both the batsman and the bowlers have got to come to the party, there is no doubt about that. You need a healthy combination of guys wanting to buy in to the team ethos but also skillful enough personally to do their job.”
With the impending first game on the 5th November the England captain feels the games before the Ashes will be vital in finding form and momentum.
“We need to give players a go but the most important thing is that we play those games as competitively as possible and that is the idea. I do not like the term warm-up game, they are first-class games at the start of the tour and it is important that we play those well.”
Strauss, England captain and Alastair Cook, vice-captain are two of four sport stars signed by Austin Reed to launch the Q Club; a private members club with clubhouse, personal shopping concierge, bespoke tailoring, hirewear and much more.
They will be faces of the Q Club alongside Courtney Lawes and Lewis Moody.
© Cricket World 2010