Former great suggests 10-0 is not out of the question for the current holders of the trophy.
Never missing a chance to kick his old foes while they are down, former England all-rounder Ian Botham claims England has the skill and the opportunity to retain the Ashes in comprehensive fashion.
In the wake of England’s easy 65-run Champions Trophy win in their Pool A clash with the Australians, Both feels his countrymen could go undefeated in both upcoming Ashes series.
“Given that we’ve got back-to-back Ashes series between now and January, if we get a good summer – and you rarely lose too many days to rain in Australia – make that 10-0,” Botham said.
“I’m serious. Why not? I think we’re that much better. All it needs is the players to believe they can do it.
“Australia will be tougher than they look on paper, because they’re born fighters, but not only are they struggling to keep a fast bowler on the field for more than one game at a time, losing (Ricky) Ponting and (Michael) Hussey has left a gaping hole in the batting.”
“They’re relatively inexperienced, which is a big minus coming to a place like England, and when I hear things like, ‘Phillip Hughes has a much better technique than when he was last here’, I think, ‘Well, that wouldn’t be hard’.
“And if Michael Clarke continues to struggle with his back, then yes, 5-0 is definitely on the cards.”
The biggest sole reason for the declining standard of the Australian Test side has been the retirement of some of the game’s best players.
Despite Cricket Australia realising there would be a time when the likes of Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath would no longer be playing, not much was done to soften the blow.
However, Botham also beleives the imposing aura of the Australian sides that used to grind their opponents into the ground his crumbled.
In it’s place, in his mind, is a side that tries to create too much of a mental battle with other teams without having the skills to produce the results to strike fear into the heart of others in world cricket.
“The Australian philosophy of ‘work hard, play hard’ has always appealed to me, which is perhaps why I have so many friends there,” Botham said.
“I’ve got to say, though, that they don’t look much like the hard-as-nails cricketers I used to know.
“This business of their coach setting them homework made me laugh out loud, almost as much as that previous coach banging on about Chinese warlords.
“Maybe they’ve been playing so badly because the players are confused by all this stuff. And if so, good. I’m just glad I played in the pre-bull**** era, when grown men were allowed, by and large, to go away on tour for months on end and be treated like grown men and not schoolboys.”
England play Australia in the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge beginning on July 10.