Andrew Strauss is the man in the spotlight entering into Ashes 2010 with the dream of becoming the second Englishman after Sir Leonard Hutton to win a complete full length Ashes in England as well as in Australia as captain.
He would have to not just click with the bat, but also inspire a relatively new team to stand up against the pressure that the legendary Test urn carries with itself. Despite the purple patch of form that his team has hit over the past two seasons, he would be simply complacent to not worry about the lack of reserves in case any of the playing XI get injured or catch the out-of-form fever during the course of the rubber.
His Australian counterpart Ricky Ponting, on the other hand, has a bagful of rather unique problems considering the Oz dominance over cricket in the past decade and a half. For the first time in his career, he not only faces the challenge of beating an in-form English line-up, he also has the added pressure of winning in front of a home crowd with a team that has shadows of the previous icons who donned the baggy green under his captaincy.
His own batting and leadership skills are being stamped obsolete in an age when the young rookie lambs are set to become lions.
While on one hand, England have the likes of in-form Test batsmen Morgan, Bell and Trott to strengthen the batting spine, the question on the performance of biggies like Cook, Pietersen and Collingwood remain.
Australia have Hussey, Katich and Ponting- batsmen who have crossed 35 years of age and are not in the best of their game either. They would however have Shane Watson at service and he definitely holds the key for the home team if they are to capture the Ashes after a disappointment in 2005 and 2009.
Coming to the bowling department, Oz pacer Doug Bollinger has been in a good nick of late but his fitness might spell dead end and similar is the case with Ryan Harris. On the other side of the globe, big and burly Brit pacers are sweating it out to jibe the opponents with short, bouncy cherries.
They however, will be wary of the fact that the Australian soil gives a different trajectory to a delivery than the seamer-friendly English turfs. Scoring big is the norm Down Under and there will be lesser help in swinging and seaming the ball. This swing worked in the favour of Strauss’ men during the summers but the nip in the winter air will throw a challenge of adaptation for them.
When it comes to the real Test in the center, it is the mental strength that will decide on the fate of the cricketers because all said and done, the Australians are still ‘mighty’ in their own den, they have hardly lost Tests on their soil and would like to keep the plaque intact. England might have the form but Australians know the trick to taking their game up by a level. It’s just a habit that comes from winning everything for a long long time and Ponting just might have the ace of spades up his sleeves.