A winning partnership
Flower-Strauss alliance demands Australia's respect, says Bob
Flower's firm hand suits the modern player; he accepts that they want to earn as much as they can from other income streams such as promotional work as well as play in competitions like the IPL, providing it doesn't conflict with England's plans.
Quotes of the week
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Australia v England
First Ashes Test
11pm, Nov 24, Sky Sports HD1
Justin Langer is right to pinpoint the 'Andy Flower-Andrew Strauss' partnership as crucial to England's Ashes prospects.
In the modern game the relationship between coach and captain is crucial to defining the team's aims and implementing its strategies.
Flower and Strauss have proved to be strong, innovative leaders during their spell together and Langer is justly nervous about their joint capability come Saturday when England touch down in Perth.
It's no surprise that Langer holds Flower in such high esteem because there are quite marked similarities between the two former internationals.
Both were openers who achieved great things against the odds for their country despite not having great, God-given ability.
Since then they have succeeded in passing on their knowledge, application and desire to their charges - whether that be to Australia or Somerset in Langer's case, or England in Flower's.
Sure, the captain is the managing director on the pitch and I hope that remains ever so in cricket because captaining a team on the field is one of the great challenges in sport.
Strauss is a very strong character and won't be susceptible to the mental disintegration that Steve Waugh used to talk about ahead of previous Ashes.
This time the Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, is under far more pressure than the England captain.
Strauss has got his team exactly where he wants them now the distractions of Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff have gone and the players are all singing from the same team-sheet.
But off the pitch Flower's firm hand suits the modern player; he accepts that they want to earn as much as they can from other income streams such as promotional work as well as play in competitions like the IPL, providing it doesn't conflict with England's plans.
When it comes to the serious business of winning, Flower is right on top of things - as shown by his decision not to allow any wives or girlfriends on tour until after the second Test at Adelaide is done and dusted. I think he's got that one absolutely right.
The ECB tends to encourage wives and girlfriends to come on tour these days but it can be a distraction; it's paramount that England motivate and focus on themselves in the early days in Australia. It's a different story over Christmas and the New Year, however, when players tend to want their families around them.
Flower has also spoken well this week about the need for his players to "embrace Australia" over the next three months, rather than hide away in hotel rooms.
He couldn't be more right. While immersing yourself in DVDs and computer games is more understandable in some of the more forbidding places on earth, getting out and about in Australia and making friends is an absolute must.
I still have lifetime friendships that I made while on tour of Australia - people inside the game and outside it too - and it all helps the settling-in process each time you go back.
Meanwhile Australia appear confident that they will have Doug Bollinger back in their ranks in time for the first Test in Brisbane.
Left-arm bowlers appear to cause our openers quite a bit of bother so Bollinger's inclusion is important from that point of view, plus both he and Mitchell Johnson seem to bowl much better in Australia than they do abroad.
To my mind, though, Bollinger is a very ordinary bowler - mind you, you would have said the same thing about Johnson if you were watching him for the first time during the 2009 Ashes.
The bottom line is that it is going to be a hard winter for both bowling attacks; if England play six batsmen plus Matt Prior then there will only be room for four bowlers and that will place an enormous strain on Graeme Swann.
Aside from James Anderson, who had a fairly awful time in Australia four years ago, the others haven't bowled in Australia and that could be a problem if the overs need to be shared around.
Even if Anderson, Steven Finn and Stuart Broad bowl 60 overs a day that still leaves 30 to get through and, with the best will in the world, you can't expect Graeme Swann to be a negative, holding bowler in the first innings of a Test - nor do you want to bowl him into the ground.
The other thing that is not in the bowlers favour is that these five Test matches take place over six weeks - a tough assignment in anyone's book.
That makes me think that the bat will be on top of the ball for most of this series and it will be crucial for the likes of Finn and Chris Tremlett to mature quickly, while bearing in mind that not too many bowlers have startling first tours of Australia.
Follow the Ashes wherever you are - on skysports.com, Sky Sports HD1, Sky Player and Sky Mobile.
The first Test gets underway at 11pm on Wednesday November 24 on Sky Sports HD1. Before then you can watch England's four-day warm-up clash against Australia A on Tuesday November 16. Coverage begins on Sky Sports 1 from 11pm.
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Will Eden says...
hi bob what has happened to australian cricket?! over the last 20 years we have been used to an influx of aussie batsmen that would come into county cricket and flog our bowling all over the park and then still not be good enough to get in the aussie side! players like: law, cox, bevan, lehman barely got a look in. now they are reduced to the hussey brothers and north ( in their 30's) and watson an all rounder opening the batting! their also seems like no back up in the pace bowling . johnson looks gone to me. hilfenhaus is just fast medium and siddle is no world beater. who else is their? spin bowling? hauritz, smith, doherty?! i reckon north is their best spinner and he is part time! i hate to say it, (even as an englishman) is this good for world cricket? india are no 1 by flogging bowling in flat pitches in their own back yard, pakistan are almost banned, west indies look gone for ever, now aussies going same way!! things look bleak.
Posted 20:59 4th November 2010
Sean Mccarthy says...
I agree with Bob the aussies are in disarray with Marcus North (whos form mirrors Alastair Cook's) as the proposed next captain. England need to hit them hard in the First Test before they can regroup but their display against Sri Lanka would seem to show the Austrailians have lost the superb fightback abilities that they had; too many great players have retired with out sufficient youth replacements
Posted 11:26 4th November 2010
Geoff Single says...
England seem too be a happy and confident side.The exact opposite of the aussies who seem too be lost and scared at the moment player for player we have better players and with the best fans in the world backing them their can only be one outcome england victorious.Role on the 25 of November on sky sports
Posted 16:02 31st October 2010
Subramani Aiyar says...
England should feel reassured in the knowledge they have had a decent run of wins in Tests leading upto the Ashes series. Though they have won only against Bangladesh and Pakistan in probably the most bowler friendly conditions in England for a long time, I feel they will do well in Australia. Their batting will finally come good and their bowling will be effective enough to counter the Australians. The crucial element I feel will be Strauss' luck. He seems pretty lucky even if loses the odd Test match. It should be 2-1 in favour of England.
Posted 06:22 30th October 2010
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