Strauss: Everyone must pull weight
Andrew Strauss has warned there must be no “passengers” on England’s mission to retain the Ashes in Australia.
The England captain is convinced he has all the right men on board with him to pull off an achievement which has eluded every touring party since Mike Gatting’s men beat Australia on their home patch almost a quarter of a century ago.
Within 90 minutes of reaching England’s Perth hotel, after 20 hours of global travel, Strauss was addressing the media.
His opening gambit had echoes of his and others’ previous offerings, preaching a measured confidence as England seek to keep hold of the Ashes following their 2-1 win at home last year.
They will do so after a summer of impressive consolidation - an unbroken run of six series wins, across all formats and including a one-day international success against Australia.
But the 33-year-old opener is making it abundantly clear everyone must constantly prove their worth to retain a place in his crack team.
“When you’re out here, you can’t afford any passengers,” he said. “You need all 11 to be performing and standing up at the right time.”
Despite several of England’s batting line-up suffering dips in form over the summer, Strauss is heartened by the collective ability of all to raise their game when necessary.
“It’s that balance, and being able to adapt to different circumstances in the game, that is more crucial than one or two players having a great series,” he added.
“You’ve got to be fit, strong, mentally very stable - and ultimately, you’ve got to grind Australia down.”
Strauss knows from bitter experience, as a member of the team who arrived Down Under with great expectations under Andrew Flintoff four years ago only to succumb to a 5-0 whitewash, that hard graft and unrelenting determination win Test matches in Australia.
“We’ve all learned lessons - certainly the guys who were on the tour here last time - about the style of cricket you need to play if you want to be successful out here,” he said.
“We’re in a nice, stable place at the moment. But we’re not arrogant enough to think everything’s going to be hunky-dory for all three months of the trip.
“Our greatest strength is maybe intangible - in that we’re a pretty tight unit; we don’t rely on one or two players.
“All 11 guys have been putting their hands up, certainly in those crucial periods to make sure we get through them and win tight games.
“That is a great strength to have. But it will be tested over the course of the next three months. We need to remain resolute.”
England know they must switch into ’match mode’ quickly - the first of three warm-up fixtures is against Western Australia, beginning on Friday, but Strauss is wary of letting his men peak too early.
“Now we’ve touched down on Australian soil, everything is that bit more at the forefront of our minds - what lies ahead of us, what massive opportunities there are, and how determined we are to play well here.
“We want to acclimatise quickly. But also we have to factor in that it’s going to be a long tour, and you don’t want to burn out in the first week.”
England do not want either to be accused of under-estimating opponents many are portraying as vulnerable, after Ricky Ponting’s team dropped to an unthinkable fifth - just below England - in the world rankings, having added successive Test defeats in India to one against Pakistan at Headingley Carnegie last summer.
“If there are any question marks that are preoccupying Australia at the moment, that’s good for us,” said Strauss.
“But my past experience is that if you say too much about opposition players it can come back and haunt you.
“The Australian side now doesn’t have those very experienced, legendary players it once had. But they’ve got some very good players, and certainly at home they’re going to be a very strong side.
“For us to expect Australia to be in any way less competitive than they have been would be a bad way of playing things. We’re expecting them to be very strong, very determined and clearly massively motivated to win back the Ashes.”