Aussies in turmoil? We don't care, says Matt Prior
Keeper warns England to focus on their own game if they want to win Ashes a third time
Thursday 27 June 2013
Matt Prior has no time for tales of the woes of his Australian foes. With less than two weeks until the Ashes begin series, England's wicketkeeper has turned solipsistic.
"Firstly, we don't know what is going on in the Aussie camp," Prior insists, "we don't know the details and we don't know the politics. Secondly, it doesn't affect us at all."
Australia may have changed their coach at the 11th hour; their captain has only just returned from injury; and they may be mired in alcoholic imbroglios, but experience has taught Prior how necessary a world of Ashes pain is to school a cricketing intelligence.
The 31-year-old tells a story that helped form his Ashes soul and may explain why this England side are overwhelming favourites to win a third successive Ashes series for the first time in 32 years.
"The big thing I've learnt from playing in the Ashes," begins Prior in the atmosphere of a confessional. "Well, I'll give you an example... In 2009, we go 1-0 up and we go to Headingley with two to play thinking we are one win away from winning the Ashes. Next thing we were all out for 102 and beaten in three days. That was a great example of taking your eye off the ball for one second and getting burnt.
"One of the toughest things about the Ashes is that there are so many things going on off the pitch and away from your team that it can pull you away from concentrating on your own things if you're not careful."
The England players who take the field for the first Test at Trent Bridge on 10 July have 99 reasons to stay careful. That is how many Ashes appearances the likely XI have between them. Australia's likeliest line-up have 54 – with almost half of those belonging to the creaking Michael Clarke. And Prior believes that could make the difference.
"There were a few of the guys involved in that [Headingley] performance who will know the risks of getting your focus wrong. That is one of the challenges that a player involved in the Ashes must avoid. The important thing is that we focus on our preparation for the Essex game."
Prior will play for an England XI at Chelmsford this Sunday in their only Ashes warm-up. One man who won't be there is Nick Compton, who has paid for his recent scratchy form Prior is now England's undisputed No 1 wicketkeeper but knows the agony of being dropped. "Nick will be hurting. When you are left out it is a horrible feeling. You feel a little bit lost."
One player Prior is convinced will not be a little boy lost is Compton's replacement, Joe Root. "It was inevitable that he would end up opening. The start he has had has been phenomenal. One of his strengths is his mental strength and temperament."
They are qualities Australia will need in urnfuls over the next few months – not that Prior will be paying any attention.
Matt Prior was launching an ECB campaign to mark the upcoming Investec Ashes Series, calling on fans to #RISE for England. For news, videos and to show your support – visit: ecb.co.uk/ashes
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