Ashes 2013-14: England should not be written off so early

In the first Test, the likes of Alastair Cook (above), Graeme Swann and James Anderson hardly made their presence felt. England are a stronger team on paper and if the key players perform well, then Australia will have a lot to be worried about © Getty Images

Australia won the first Ashes 2013-14 Test against England by a whopping 381-run margin. They outplayed the Ashes holders in every single department. Talk of Australia blitzing England in the remaining Tests has already started by the Australian fans and more importantly the Australian media. Shrikant Shankar is of the opinion that Australia cannot get carried away and they should not write off England so early in the series.

Even before Mitchell Johnson dismissed an already-beefed last man James Anderson late on Day Four of the first Ashes 2013-14 Test, the Australian fans and media went in a state of frenzy. They were probably more excited to see Australia win than the players themselves. And who could blame them as this was Australia’s first victory in 10 Tests. It was also their first win in eight Tests against their old rivals. It must have been really hard for them to accept their fall from dizzying heights not so long back. And more importantly, this gave hope that they can win the urn back after losing the previous three.

Losing the 2009 Ashes 2-1 was hurtful as they could have drawn that series 2-2, if certain circumstances favored them. In the 2013 Ashes, they could have even won the series given luck but ended up losing 3-0. But the most hurtful and definitely embarrassing loss of the lot was the 3-1 hammering they received in the 2010-11 series. Those three England victories were not just comprehensive [as they were all won by an innings], but absolutely demoralising. Many of these players in the England setup played in that series. And they would know how to play in these conditions.

England also lost the first Test against India by an innings in 2012. But they came back with two big-margin victories in the next two Tests before drawing the fourth. They won the series 2-1. Alastair Cook led them by example in those victories. He broke all sorts of records while batting during the 2010-11 series Down Under. He is someone who will not batter the opposition, but someone who will bat the opposition out of the contest — something he was instrumental in doing so in the 2010-11 Ashes and the 2012 tour of India. Cook showed glimpses of his dogged will and ability in England’s second innings in Brisbane at The Gabba.

Then there is a Kevin Pietersen-factor. There is no lid that one can keep on the way gets dismissed. There is no apparent sign of weakness. Most of the times, it is Pietersen who gets himself out rather than getting out. He has proved time and time again that he is a match-winner. There is concern over who will replace Jonathan Trott’s position. But England are no novices and they would have planned well in advance about who will be the replacements if anyone got injured in the long series.

The most important factor that can help England and hurt Australia is the fact that the hosts seem to have got too excited and have let that get the better of them. The likes of David Warner and George Bailey have not achieved much in cricket let alone in Tests for behaving the way they did during the Test. Sledging is part and parcel of the game, but people certainly crossed the line. One can imagine Michael Clarke dishing out a few words, mainly because he has achieved great heights in cricket and he was part of a great Australian team. Even Mitchell Johnson was part of that team, but he did more talking with his bat and with the ball rather with his mouth. Moreover, Clarke was under immense pressure after losing the Ashes earlier this year. The victory came as a huge relief not just for Clarke but for the entire team.

Many of the others have never been part of that legendary team and they need to understand that their deserved victory at The Gabba can easily turn out to be a flash in the pan. There are also the likes of James Anderson and Graeme Swann who did not come to the party in Brisbane. But they are proven performers all over the world and if they turn up, Australia will have a big battle on their hands. On paper, England slightly edge Australia like for like. If all perform according to potential, there might be a great showcase for cricket. And there can also be an England victory.

If the last few years have taught the world anything is that England are no longer the team from the 1990s. Some of the feats achieved by them in the recent past, especially in Test cricket, are remarkable. Complacency can set in and it can come back to bite them. Australia trounced England in the third Test of the 2010-11 series in Perth at the WACA to level the series. What happened next was that England returned the favour in Melbourne and Sydney and won 3-1. So, write them off only at your own peril Australia!

(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)