With all the chatter about India and Pakistan in the past month or so, not least from me, it’s a relief to read of something else. I admit I’ve had absolutely zilch interest in Aus v NZ, the latter being completely outplayed, almost embarrasingly so. Fleming looks a tired, jaded individual much like Atherton did whenever he captained England in The Ashes.
So, onto this article, an interview of Steve Rixon, the Surrey and NSW coach and an obvious candidate to be interrogated about The Ashes.
“The mental strength might be the only difference between the sides,” said Rixon.
“Their mentality is their biggest strength; no matter whether a batsman is averaging five and a bowler 50 with the ball they will believe that their next innings will be a hundred or a five-for.
Despite Jagadish’s unconfined & unparalled hatred and disrespect of England, most people will concede that England is an improving side. They’ve finally learnt how to spell team (“There’s no ‘i’ in team”), and the central contracts has provided stability in particular to fringe-players, identified as future key players. However well they’ve performed in the past 2 years, they haven’t even come close to playing a team of Australia’s stature since, well, the last Ashes. I feel they deserve their status as number 2 in the world, and also look forward to their India tour a year from now. That has all the makings of a classic series.
So, Rixon’s comments about mental strength are all the more important. Last week, I converted some of my old VHS tapes to DVD – a fun, albeit lengthy process – and was reminded of The Bad Old Days when England had less spine than a jelly-fish. England are now winning key moments of a session, or a day’s cricket – and that’s been one of the keys of their successes in the past 24 months and is due to increased confidence, and mental spirit & determination.
However…this following statement is perhaps the most crucial difference between not only Australia and England, but Australia and the world:
“When Michael Kasprowicz got his chance last year and took it with a five-wicket haul, the reaction was, ‘oh well, that is what he was picked for, it is what he is supposed to do’.”
I don’t care which team you mention, no other side in world cricket thinks like that, yet. If Kasper was on another side, was re-selected, took 5 wickets – he’d be hailed a hero. Great analysis would be done by media and shiny TV commentators, asking pointless questions like “In your wildest dreams, did you ever expect to make a comeback like that?” and “Can you put your finger on what has happened today and why?” and “This is a great day for [English / Indian / South African / etc] Cricket.” Australia? They expect people to perform. If they don’t, they’re sacked/dropped/fired.
As I’ve said in the past, I am excited about this Ashes – but am also much more relaxed about it. The past 3 or 4 have been painful to watch – really, really painful – not least because winning the Ashes was seen as the only way to resurrect English Cricket, back then. English Cricket isn’t in the mess it was 5/10 years ago, and for that reason alone, England can at last try to enjoy this series and not worry too much about the outcome. That’s Vaughan’s motto, after all – “enjoy yourselves” – and I’m sure Australian’s wouldn’t begrudge England the odd victory in a few month’s time, although I don’t doubt for a second which way they want the pendulum to swing for the final result 2-2 going into the final Test at the new and redeveloped Oval would be just fine, please.
Rest of the article here