England`s biggest danger in Ashes is complacency

Updated: Nov 19, 2010, 13:49 PM IST

England start the Ashes series as favourites, but would have to be careful, as Australia can come out fighting when they find themselves in sticky situations, feels ex-coach Duncan Fletcher.

In an article for the Sydney Morning Herald, Fletcher said: " The biggest worry I have about England is how well they will cope with being in such a strong position. It is not a situation they have been in very often, and in recent years they have always been happier being the underdogs."

"The risk is that when you are the favourite you just start to get a little cocky. England are not wanting for anything at the moment, so if they do not perform they are going to start questioning themselves," he adds.

He believes captain Andrew Strauss will have a key role to play in making sure that England maintains its winning habit after having started the tour so well against Western Australia, South Australia and Australia `A`.

Fletcher warns that if Strauss comes up short on the leadership front, the Australians will be quick to pile more pressure on him by picking him apart in the press.

"Their bowlers will still be looking to come hard at him when the first Test starts but he is a tough nut. And he will have learnt a lot from the last tour in 2006-07, when the most successful English players were the ones who were the most aggressive on the field," he adds.

As far as Australian cricket is concerned, Fletcher says it is in a dark place right now.

"Whereas England`s preparations have been excellent, Australia look like a team in disarray," he adds.

"On the two Ashes tours I managed, the Australian pundits used to accuse us of using injuries as excuses. Now, all the noise about fitness is coming from their side. Injury bulletins are popping up from left, right and centre. Michael Clarke has a back problem, Simon Katich has had trouble with his thumb, and Doug Bollinger has been struggling with a stomach-muscle strain. The selectors say these niggles explain why they included 17 men in their squad for the first Test, but picking so many players just shows uncertainty," says the former England cricket team coach.

"Australia have won only one of their past eight matches, so they have no momentum. That bad run also means there must be doubts about Ricky Ponting`s captaincy. But whereas before they had a natural successor lined up in Clarke, now there are serious questions being asked about him," he adds.

There are also questions being asked of the middle-order, and whether the time is right to blood youngsters and performers like Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson.

He says that Australia also have a problem with their spinner, Nathan Hauritz. Half the country wants him in the team, the other half wants him out.

He concludes by saying that: "You have to go back more than 30 years, to the era when Kerry Packer had tempted away the best players to World Series Cricket, to find the last time the team was in such a muddled state."

ANI