It’s the Ashes. This is it. If there is any rivalry in cricket that is worth every penny spent on it, every moment viewed, every emotion vented, it’s this. India-Pakistan cricket is fierce; Australia-England in the Ashes is the fiercest. If India-Pakistan is war, Ashes is World War. There is no mincing of words, and no half measures by either of the sides. Both want to show who is more desperate to win.
Australia are going to this war with their most potent missiles called the Mitchells. The left armers will not stop at anything and going by their last experience, England will be treating these two left arm pacers with a separate strategy.
The problem for ECB’s Performance Centre at Loughborough would be to gauge who would be more hostile as both Johnson and Starc have an enormous appetite for top order batters. The Mitchells will be the leaders in giving England culture shock, especially after they faced the gentlemen from New Zealand in their last series.
The chiseled physiques running ruthlessly at a rapid pace into the 22-yard strip is a sight most batsmen around the world don’t enjoy, particularly the Englishmen. Johsnon would surely not be forgotten, considering the destruction he caused in the last Ashes.
At 33 now, this is possibly Johnson’s last chance to terrify his favourite whipping boys. The motivation and intent is there. He took 37 wickets in that unforgettable series (which England would love to forget) with sheer pace and uncut aggression. So he definitely holds a psychological advantage and the best part is that he knows it.
The other Mitchell has everything to torment batsmen of any class on any track. If his senior partner is a tormentor app, Starc is the app with the software update. Not sure if anyone has forgotten his infamous IPL clash with the mighty Kieron Pollard.
Yes, in the last Ashes he was not even the slightest of the concern for Englishmen, but he has been a revelation in the last one year, culminating in being the Player of the Tournament in the 2015 World Cup. He has all the traits of leading the fast bowling mantle for Australia in years to come.
What will be more fascinating to see is how Starc carries forward his coloured clothing feats in the whites? That’s the biggest challenge for the New South Wales man: to consistently move the red cherry in Test cricket as well as he did with the white.
The Australian attack is definitely not only about the Mitchells. But it is surely shaped and defined by these two. An injured Ryan Harris means Josh Hazlewood will run in along with the Mitchells and Nathan Lyon to form the bowling attack. Shane Watson or Mitchell Marsh will make for the bowling all-rounder.
For England, this series will be more about how to stand up to the fiery speed which had put them on the wrong side of a 5-0 sweep, and that too against a stubborn and sturdy outfit.
Let the games begin. For Cook & Co. to win this war, their defence will have to be steely enough to not let through the Mitchells' Missiles, which as of now looks unlikely. But cricket is a funny game.