No fear from Flower's England
Andy Flower has dismissed suggestions that England are favourites to win the Ashes - but insists his players have nothing to fear in Australia.
Optimism over a first England triumph Down Under since 1987 is seemingly growing ahead of their departure on Friday, a notion accelerated by Australia's 2-0 Test series defeat in India earlier this month.
Team director Flower, however, is reticent to claim any marked superiority over a side that boasts a formidable record on home soil.
Asked about England’s tag of favourites, Flower replied: “I’m not sure that is the case. I think they are fairly evenly matched sides.
“Playing Australia in Australia, where they have a very good record, we respect the opposition but we don’t fear them.
“I don’t think there’s anything to be afraid of. It’s actually a tour that should be welcomed; it should be one of the highlights of people’s cricketing careers - to go on an Ashes tour of Australia.
“That means enjoying the challenges that you face on the field and also enjoying seeing another country, seeing another culture, meeting new people.
“We’re confident about our own side, we feel prepared and we believe we can win.”
As the longest and most famous rivalry in cricket, the hype surrounding the Ashes comfortably outweighs that of any other series.
Anticipation has, in fact, been growing steadily since England regained the urn on home turf last summer, and will continue to do so ahead of the opening Test in Brisbane on November 25.
Yet Flower believes England have a better chance of victory Down Under if they divorce themselves from the inevitable hysteria.
“It is important for our guys to keep it all in perspective,” he said. “Beating the Australians, we will have to be at our best to do that. We’re willing to take that on and confront it fully.
"But I do ask them to keep things in perspective because I think that’s the best way to go about this job. If you don’t, you can build it up into something bigger than it is.”
Flower is predicting a close series, and one that will capture the public’s attention - both in Australia and beyond.
After a summer that was tarnished somewhat by allegations of corruption during Pakistan’s tour of England, he also claims both sets of players have a duty to the sport beyond mere results.
“The series that Australia have just had in India was an excellent Test series, albeit only two matches long,” Flower added.
“(The Ashes) should be a very exciting series to be involved in and for people to watch. With the inevitable scrutiny, it should be a great spectacle for people.
“We all have a responsibility to the game to make sure its image is strong and healthy.”