London: England cricket legend Ian Botham has warned that England will be "playing into Australia's hands" if flat pitches are prepared for the upcoming Ashes tournament starting July 8 in Cardiff.
Botham, the former England captain, is concerned that a desire to maximise ticket sales could convince the grounds hosting the Tests to prepare easy-paced, flat tracks with a view to trying to ensure that each match lasts the full five days.
But he insisted such a tactic would be an error and that, if the series is played on surfaces offering bowlers some assistance, England have the team to surprise Australia.
"We don't want flat wickets. That's playing right into Australia's hands. The pitch at Lord's for the Test against New Zealand was a great pitch. Pitches like that serve up great cricket," Botham, considered one of the best all-rounders of the game, was quoted as saying by espncricinfo on Saturday.
"Please don't serve up five-day corporate pitches. If you do we might as well send the Ashes back now because that'll play right into Australia's hands," added Botham, who scored 5,200 runs and took 383 wickets in 102 Test matches.
"I'm not sure they will dare to prepare flat wickets. We'll be on their case and so will the written media and the public too because they've got used to seeing an expressive England. They don't want boring cricket."
Botham said he has confidence and faith in England's young players. He believes Joe Root is playing "magnificently" and rates Ben Stokes as England's most promising all-rounder since his own career ended.
"Ben Stokes is the real thing. He's got the right attitude. He's a tough competitor and is a good enough bowler and good enough batsman. He didn't have much luck with the ball in the Tests vs New Zealand -- he had a few catches dropped off him -- but that can suddenly change," Botham said.
The 59-year-old also urged the senior bowlers Stuart Broad and James Anderson to lead from the front and demonstrate the positive cricket the youngsters showed in their absence during the limited-overs games against New Zealand.
"You've got a guy on more than 400 wickets and another guy approaching 300. Those two are your senior bowlers. They need to turn up and they know that," Botham, who represented England in 116 One-Day Internationals (ODIs), concluded.