Ashes 2015: These tours are very special – partly because the hours on a bus build a traditional team spirit

Inside Edge: Sitting around with Boon, Border and Healy - I was just so happy to be there

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The biggest day in an Ashes series is the first, especially for those who have never fought for the urn before. Both sides  will be nervous this morning. Both sides will want the talk to stop and the cricket  to start. Both sides will be itching to get out there.

Because none of the talk, none of the lead-up, none of the press conferences, none of the tour games will mean a thing when the first ball is bowled this morning.

There will be even more nerves for those – Josh Hazlewood and Adam Voges for Australia, Mark Wood, Adam Lyth, Moeen Ali and Jos Buttler for England – who have never played in the Ashes before. I am sure none of them will have slept as well before the first day as they will the next evening, when it has been and gone. Only once that first day is done is there any sense of relief. “We are finally here,” you think. “Now let’s get into it.”

All the players have to make sure they are ready if selected. I went on my first Ashes tour at 21 but did not play in an Ashes Test for another eight years. At that point, though, I was able to take the opportunity.

Not everyone on an Ashes tour gets to play in the Test matches. I was selected for the 1993 tour, six months after my debut, still just 21. I played in all of the county games, and in two one-day internationals, but none of the Tests. And yet it was still a great experience for me.

One of the many special things about an Ashes tour is that you travel around on a bus, so the team bond together better than if you are flying everywhere. There is something about the atmosphere on those long coach journeys, something traditional, that brings the whole team together.

 

So for me to be there, sitting around with David Boon, Allan Border, Ian Healy, Mark Taylor and Mark Waugh – guys that I had grown up watching on television – I was just so happy to be there. I was part of the squad, and I couldn’t believe it.

As I was the youngest player I was made 12th man most games, so I could do all the running around. It was a pain to do it at Lord’s, running for miles, up and down four sets of stairs through the Long Room. But I was still like a kid in a lolly shop.

 

It was only soon after my debut and so I never expected to play in the Tests. I was too young to be frustrated. We had a good side and so all I could do was put my hand up and take my opportunities if they came. For the guys on the fringes, it is all about being ready to go.

The following year I was dropped from the side and did not get to make my Ashes debut until the 2001 tour at Edgbaston. I was 29 years old then, but I was ready for it. There was no overexcitement, I was in form, I was making runs and I was in the side for Tests and ODIs – we had won the 1999 World Cup. I was at a stage where I felt comfortable with everything: where my game was at, where my head was at. I scored 152 and we won by an innings and 118 runs.

It is not a silent game – are England showing weakness?

I was surprised to hear that there had been no sledging or chirping during England’s recent series with New Zealand. Because if nothing was said at all, then it must have been the first silent series in the history of cricket.

Of course, I understand that there have been moments on the field which have not been great. There are incidents that don’t look good on TV. Cricket is meant to be a gentleman’s game. There is a line, when it comes to personal abuse and confrontation, which should not be crossed.

But you simply cannot take talking out of the game. I have never played a quiet cricket match in my whole life: junior cricket, grade cricket, state cricket, county cricket, Test cricket, Ashes cricket. Not all talk is abusive sledging, far from it. If I walked out to bat and hadn’t scored a hundred for five games, the fielders would let me know about it. It is part of the game.

Every cricket team in the world talks. And that is why I was surprised to read Jimmy Anderson saying that he hoped there would be less sledging in this series. As Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson said last week, Anderson is one of England’s biggest sledgers. Does this mean he won’t say a word? Has he changed overnight? We will have to see.

But England must know how commonplace talk is on the cricket field. And if they are complaining about it, perhaps it is because it is affecting them. And it shouldn’t.

Watson’s consistency should edge Marsh from No 6 spot

The one selection dilemma left for Australia is to choose between Shane Watson and Mitchell Marsh to bat at six. There is no doubt in my mind that Marsh will go on to play a big part in the future of Australian cricket. I have known him ever since he was a little boy, roaming around the Western Australia changing rooms with his brother Shaun, back when their dad Geoff was my captain at WA.

I know all about Mitch’s record-breaking youth and his natural talent. With the ball, he uses his height, hits the deck hard and will only get better. With the bat, he is a power hitter who can come in at six and take the game away from the opposition.

And yet I still think Watson should get the nod in Cardiff. He has been good for the side, playing in an era since so many big names retired. Yes, of course he would like to have scored more hundreds. Everyone would love to have more hundreds, including me. But Watto has provided good stability for the team over the years. He is an experienced campaigner.

Beyond that, Watson will bowl his 15 overs for no runs, “Mr Consistent”. When Michael Clarke is trying to rotate his bowlers, giving the quicks short spells, you need a guy who can tie up the other end. A guy like Watto.

Mitch Marsh will play in future Ashes series, but he may have to spend this one learning. Like I did 22 years ago.

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