Jones Zone: Boof will tell players: go out and have fun
The Ashes column that gives it to you straight
Sunday 07 July 2013
If I know the new coach Darren Lehmann he'll be telling the guys in the dressing-room before that First Test starts on Wednesday that they've got to back themselves, go out there and have some fun.
There's been a lot of talk in the build-up to this Ashes series about how bad this squad of Aussies are, but Lehmann and captain Michael Clarke will be trying to get the players to enjoy the situation and not get over-awed by it all.
The Ashes is a big deal for any cricketer so Boof and Pup will tell them to absorb the early pressure and try to keep things simple. Boof's mantra has been like that all the time.
Not many of our players have played in the Ashes before, only half the squad really, and playing international cricket in England is different from playing elsewhere anyway. That was the problem with our bowlers last time: they didn't know how to deal with English conditions.
The worst thing that's happened to Australian cricket is that not many young players go and play county cricket any more because you have to play a certain number of games at home now in order to qualify to play for your country.
English county cricket used to be an Aussie's training ground, and they would get two seasons rolled into one. But for most of them, those days are gone.
Aussies have to build a nice English castle
My own advice would be that Australia have got to work on their defensive skills. England do this very well. When the English were going around invading the world, what was the first thing they did when they got to India or wherever? They built themselves a castle.
Three quarters of the game is about your defence, and you live and die by that, not by your offensive skills. Look at Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest batsman in the world: 70 per cent of his game is defensive; on average his hundreds took 180 balls, 125 of which were defensive shots or leaving the ball alone.
When I look at David Warner, I think OK, he can play the backward defensive shot well, but what about the forward defensive and the "leave"? You have got to have at least two out of the three.
And with the bowlers, it's about hitting your lines and lengths. Terry Alderman did it in England in 1981 and '89, and though Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath had all the toys at their disposal, ultimately both of them could hit their lines and lengths as well, and that's why those two were the very best.
Any weakness in your game and an Ashes series will find it out. You have to enjoy the battle of finding out if you're good enough. OK, it can be frightening but if you do well in the Ashes then it's the best feeling of all. And you've got 12 months' free rein in the side, whereas if you don't do well in the Ashes you might be out of the side for two years.
The pressure is all on Rogers
So who will bat in the top six for Australia? First of all, Michael Clarke has got to be coming in at No 5, he's just not good enough at four. The stats back that up: in 30 innings at No 4 he averages 22, in 98 innings at five he's averaging 64. Need I say more?
Two of the great Australia captains of recent vintage, Steve Waugh and Allan Border, were great batting down at five and six. You don't need to let your ego get in the way and want to bat higher up the order.
Chris Rogers will open the innings with Shane Watson but I think there's more pressure on Rogers than anyone else in the team. He's made over 20,000 runs in first-class cricket but even he doesn't know if he's good enough for the Test arena, let alone anyone else.
At No 3, I would go for Ed Cowan because his defence is sound, though it's worrying that he has played 17 Tests and has passed fifty seven times but he has only converted one of them into a hundred.
Phil Hughes will be at No 4; he hasn't really come off in England before in Test cricket but he has played well for Middlesex and he is rejuvenated over the last 18 months. He has been working hard at his technique. And besides, how many of these guys have 21 first-class hundreds to their name?
And at six I'd have Usman Khawaja; he works well with Boof at Queensland, he's also played a bit at my old haunt Derbyshire, and it's time to give the boy a run in the team.
As far as I'm concerned, David Warner can come back in the Fourth or Fifth Test. He needs to play some first-class cricket, and I'm really disappointed with his off-field attitude anyway.
Get Fawad in the side now
England are worried about our pacemen James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc. These guys can take 20 wickets, especially if the conditions are helpful.
Pattinson can bowl fast and he can be nasty too. I like my fast bowlers to be like that, typical Aussie pacemen who are in your face and letting you know that the game is on.
Starc is better than Mitchell Johnson because although they are similar, Starc can swing the ball in. He'll be raring to go too, because he will be glad that the rotation policy has gone with the sacking of Mickey Arthur – it meant he missed the Boxing Day Test, the big one.
The only problem is that no left-armer has done any good in an Ashes series in England since Alan Davidson back in the Fifties and early Sixties.
I'm leaning towards playing Jackson Bird instead of Peter Siddle. He's impressed me, he gets in close and bowls good heat, up to 140kph, and he bowls really well at left-handers. Siddle's played here before and done well but he hasn't done anything lately, and it's all about form. But at the end of the day it will have to be Siddle I suppose.
And yes, I would play our mystery leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed. He's not a huge turner of the ball but what he can do is hold up an end for you. Nathan Lyon and the other slow men just leak too many runs. It's worth the risk bringing Fawad straight in from the A tour.
Watson must play for the team
Shane Watson has got to learn to dictate terms, à la Michael Slater, and try to win the game from the first ball.
We've been waiting for him to come along, he's played 41 Tests now and he's got everything he wanted: "I want to bat at No 3… I don't want to bowl … I want to open the innings." It's got to be less about Watson and more about the team.
I don't want him to just meander along. He really needs to pace his innings better. If you have the oppo in the palm of your hand, you need to hurt them. He doesn't do that, and that's why he scores a lot of nineties.
And he's the one who needs to target Graeme Swann, go after him, hit him down the ground like I know he can.
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