Amidst the hoopla of Twenty20 cricket being the destructor of the longest version of the game, the recently-concluded T20 World Cup surprisingly provided a much needed precursor to a great Ashes series that will be played in Australia later this year.
The stage was set for a great clash between the Ashes rivals England and Australia to outsmart each other in the final of the World T20 and gain a significant edge for a grueling Ashes clash. Australia looked to be clear favourites to win the titanic battle but, in the end, it was the English team which came victorious, thus proving numerous cricket pundits and many a naysayer wrong.
The fact that England had never won any ICC event, losing three finals of the 50-over World Cup and a summit clash in the Champions Trophy, prompted many to write them off even before the start of the event.
But, the English squad that has been doing well for the past couple of years in all forms of the game is a completely different outfit now. This team has a bunch of players who have self-belief, and above all, the flamboyancy which is generally not associated with the orthodox English cricketers.
Apart from mercurial all-rounder Ian Botham, no other English cricketer in the past, could show the spark which is essential for every team’s success in the modern day cricket. Although Andrew Flintoff, a natural heir of Botham, provided them with a little bit of that class, it was Kevin Pietersen, who finally came up with that extra fillip that is needed to dominate the sporting world and win a major event.
England’s success rested on KP’s broad shoulders and he came up with some special knocks during the entire 16 days of the T20 World Cup.
England were lucky that for the first time, they had some young cricketers who were ambitious and did not choke during the crunch moments. The way they dominated over the mighty and brutal Aussies in the final was a testimony of the steely character of this young bunch of players.
Rookie Eoin Morgan is a typical example of how confidence in your ability can help you overcome the toughest of challenges. The assurance and confidence with which he plays the unorthodox shots shows the man’s ability and resilience. He is really a future England star and prototype of a new generation of England cricketers who are unmindful of what cynics like Geoffrey Boycott say about them and are nonchalant about their conservative pasts.
Hampshire opener Michael Lumb and new wicketkeeper-batsman Craig Kieswetter also fall in the same category of cricketers who have plenty of guts and grit.
Another player who has stolen the show in recent months is Graeme Swann. A strong individual, who has seen the flip-side of the life, Swann comes across as a strong cricketer who enjoys his game and never shies away from the challenges at hand.
Whenever Test skipper Andrew Strauss and T20 captain Paul Collingwood have thrown the ball at Swann, he has not disappointed them. His consistent show with the ball is another reason why England did well in all forms of the game in the last one and a half years. His phoenix-like re-incarnation in a land, where spinners are considered as an endangered species these days, is evident of his character. Before him, Derek Underwood was the last great spinner England had produced.
In Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, the England Test team has solidity in the top order and in Paul Collingwood, they have a batsman who can pull them out of the woods at any stage of the game.
For the first time after the famous 2005 victory, England’s pace bowling attack is looking threatening and has a variety that can easily unsettle the opposition. Ryan Sidebottom, Stuart Broad and James Anderson form a lethal pace bowling combo, which has the capacity to help them retain the Ashes.
It seems that Andrew Strauss has finally established his authority over the team that had plunged into trouble just a year back after the ugly spat between the then captain Kevin Pietersen and coach Peter Moores that eventually led to the ouster of both from their respective posts.
After taking over the reigns from KP, Strauss has matured both as a batsman and as a skipper. His Ashes winning experience would surely come in handy when they take on the Aussies in their own backyard.
Finally, England has a team which can tame the Kangaroos in their own den. When they embark Down Under for a five-Test Ashes series, they need that gutsy attitude which helped them win the T20 World Cup. It’s this attitude that helped them settle score with Australia in 2005 and 2009 home Ashes.
But, winning Ashes in England is completely different from winning it Down Under. The 0-5 drubbing that the English received at the hands of their arch-rival in 2006 in Australia immediately after winning the 2005 rubber is still vivid in the memory of many cricket lovers. One example will be sufficient to make England’s mammoth task at hand clear. Last time they came back triumphant from the Australian soil was way back in 1986-87, a jinx of 24 years.