Even before the Champions Trophy had started, there were write ups on the Ashes; no, not about the significance of the series, or about the players. In fact, most of them were about why Australia cannot win the Ashes. Now it doesn’t take a genuis to deduce that, given how incredibly awful their recent performances have been. Australia hasn’t won a single international game this year until now, and the English team on the other hand, paper and by performances have been incredibly good. Andy Flower was right in saying that the Australians are not as bad as everyone is making them out to be. As crazy as it may seem right now, there are reasons why I think Australia might pose a strong challenge to the English.
A new head coach
Mickey Arthur’s sacking as head coach, and Darren Lehmann’s appointment as Australia’s new coach has perhaps come as a welcome change to Australian cricket. Lehmann was always the no-bull***t kind of player and brings that to even his coaching techniques – where he addresses the problem straight on. He has proven his mettle as a coach in the IPL. The Deccan Chargers, who finished last in the first season, ended up winning in the second season under his guidance. He turned it around for the team, and the Australians would be hoping he has a similar effect on the national team.
A new team-environment
The first positive sign of change post Darren Lehmann’s appointment was Shane Watson speaking out openly. Lehmann stated publicly that Watson would be opening the batting in the Ashes and that is where Watson loves batting the most. Contrary to how Michael Clarke and management had used him post Ponting stepping down as captain, Watson will return to opening. The tension in the dressing room seems to have eased out when it concerns Watson and it showed in his batting when Australia took on Somerset in the first practice game of the tour; he scored 90 in 94 balls. The other Australian batsmen too have scored some runs and will feel confident in facing up against the Englishmen in similar conditions. The bowlers too – Pattinson and Starc in particular – have shown signs of being well-prepared for the series, based on their performances in the tour game.
The surprise package of Fawad Ahmed
The Australian greats tipped off Ahmed to make a difference in the Ashes as the Englishmen know little about the Pakistan-born leg spinner. They are trying all they can to get some footage of Ahmed bowling. And if Ahmed even has a bit of the typical Pakistani spinners’ skill – that has proved to be a hassle for the Englishmen earlier – it could pose a problem for the home side.
The entire world knows that the best of the Australians is brought out when they approach the game with an aggressive intent. Lately, not only have they been quite docile when compared to their trademark selves, but their internal issues have taken a toll on the performance of the team. With the coach pushing them to play aggressive cricket, their mental attitude will define the series for them. Even if not immediately, there is hope that the Australians won’t submit meekly to the mighty Englishmen.
Although the word from every corner is that the English will have a comfortable victory over the mild Australians, there is hope that it might not be as bad as the world has been anticipating. There is hope that the Australians might even win a Test or two if the entire team performs together as a unit, moving on from the quandaries that they have faced in the last few months.