A gradual but inevitable descent into cricket-based loathing and bile.

The Devereux Diaries, Part One: It Must Be An Ashes Year

Posted on May 6, 2015 by in Opinion, Tests


Steven Peter Devereux Smith thinks Australia will win the Ashes. What’s more, if they play to their potential he doesn’t think it will even be close. That there wasn’t a bigger uproar over these comments is probably because very few people could find anything to disagree with. So instead most complaints were directed at the fact that he said it at all. How dare a sportsman show confidence in his team’s ability? It’s just not cricket.

While some will claim that if England win the Ashes it’ll be because Devereux gave them the required ammunition, that line of argument doesn’t really make much sense. And besides, the English players must already know the Aussies think they are all shit. Still, it stands to reason that every international sportsman should think they are better than the opposition, and every game represents another opportunity to prove it. That should be pretty much taken as a given for every player at this level. Except perhaps for the Rob Quiney’s of the world, who are probably just happy that someone was charitable enough to let them play at all.

The look of a man who knows he only has a few more minutes before someone calls security.

The look of a man who knows he only has a few more minutes before someone realises their error and calls security.

By the same dint, Australia won’t win the Ashes because of what Devereux said, but they may well win it because he had the freedom to say it. Australia, under Darren Lehmann, think they can beat anyone. Which is a little different to Australia under Mickey Arthur, where all they wanted was to just to beat each other. Occasionally this approach goes – somewhat hilariously – askew, usually resulting in them woefully underestimating their opponents and the conditions, and in their desperation turning to Glenn Maxwell to try and somehow pull them out of the fire. Unsurprisingly, it never works.

But the fact that they didn’t even bother picking Maxwell for the Ashes suggests that they have a pretty good grasp of what’s required to win in England. A few days before Devereux spoke out, Pat Howard said exactly the same the thing, that if they played to their potential they would win the Ashes. That there was no reaction is probably because nobody really gives a fuck what Howard says anymore. But it does indicate that the Australian team is pretty confident of their chances, and they don’t really care who knows.

Compare that to the attitude that seems to prevail amongst the England camp. If asked the same question, Alastair Cook probably would have ummed and ahhed a lot, before spouting some rubbish about ensuring performances meet expectations and that everyone involved comes from the right family. You get the feeling nobody within the English camp really thinks they can win the Ashes, and certainly nobody will outright come out and say they can beat the Aussies. Largely because it’s probably seen as the sort of thing Kevin Pietersen would say.

Well, at least one English player is looking forward to the Ashes.

Well, at least one Englishman is looking forward to the Ashes.

England’s approach to the Ashes will be dictated by caution. They won’t try and get on top of players like Mitchell Johnson and David Warner; instead they will try and find ways in which to limit their effectiveness. They will have contingency plans in place to try and reduce Australia’s impact with the new ball and will probably try and stifle Australia’s middle order by setting defensive fields that cut off scoring opportunities and build pressure. It will be inherently defensive and, true to form, governed by pre-game analysis. And for that reason it will most likely fail horribly.

On the surface Australia’s approach won’t be too different, in truth, but it will be directly aimed at smashing the England batting order to pieces, mostly by knocking Cook over early, and targeting second line bowlers in England’s attack (pretty much anyone who isn’t Jimmy Anderson these days), so that their front line bowlers will be run into the ground. Australia’s approach, except arguably when Anderson or Root are in full flow, will be to try and take every advantage they can. That is, to try and win by taking the game away from the opposition. England, by comparison, will play dry, attritional cricket aimed at taking the contest as deep as possible and waiting for the opposition to hopefully crack. Otherwise known as Andy Flower’s Guide to Making Friends and Influencing People.

Andy Flower showing off his new look.

Andy Flower caused a small panic in the ECB office when he unveiled his new look.

It’s not a bad approach, per se, but it’s an approach that’s probably not best suited to a team that currently has no idea who its second opener is, is trying out an experimental pairing at numbers six and seven, and is about two fast bowlers short of a decent pace attack. Much like England’s World Cup campaign, all it will do is increase pressure on an outfit that has, to date, not really responded well when put under pressure. It would work with England’s 2010/11 side….but that side doesn’t exist anymore, and we wouldn’t be surprised if Colin Graves’ first goal as ECB Chairman will be to sack everyone in the building who hasn’t woken up to that fact.

By the same token, Australia’s side isn’t really all that great either. You can guarantee they will be 100/5 at least two or three times throughout the Ashes, and Mitchell Starc is still utterly unproven at Test level. But it doesn’t matter so much, as they’re not trying to play a style that is inherently opposed to the abilities of the players who are actually in the XI right now. There will be hiccups along the way, but they have faith that it will ultimately work out for them. You can’t imagine the English players have much faith with the style of play they will pursue under Moores.

And that’s pretty much what it will come down too. The differences between the two teams aren’t as large as they have already been made out to be. But one team, as Devereux’s comments indicate, really believes it will win the Ashes, whilst the other will be hoping that if it hangs in there long enough things might somehow work out for them in the end. Maybe. And it just happens to rain a hell of a lot too.


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