Sydney: Former Australian captains Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor are backing the unfancied tourists to shock England and bring the famous Ashes urn home. Waugh said carrying the underdog tag could work in Australia's favour in the five-Test series from July, providing the team belief it could win and not merely compete.
"We've got the bowlers to take 20 wickets," he told reporters. "We can beat any team in the world and we proved that, almost, last year when we nearly beat South Africa, who are the No.1 team. So we're not that far away. It's a matter of the top six getting some consistency, getting some confidence."
"England have themselves been very inconsistent over the past 12 to 18 months." Australia, who dominated England for so long in the Ashes but have lost three out of the past four contests, are ranked fourth in the world after a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of India last month.
Selectors on Wednesday named a 16-man squad led by Michael Clarke with a return to the side of veterans Brad Haddin and Chris Rogers, both 35. Former top-order linchpin Taylor said he had no problems with adding experience to the squad, although he lamented the dearth of young batsmen.
Of the seven main batsmen in the squad, including allrounder Shane Watson, four are aged 30 or older, and only Phil Hughes is under 25. "I'm not against the fact they've put Chris Rogers back in the side, even at the age of 35," Taylor said.
"It's obviously not an eye for the future - it's an eye for right now. But I think the biggest worry from my point of view is that there's not a lot of young batsmen coming around at the moment."
Nevertheless Taylor, who played in three Ashes-winning campaigns in England, recognises that the selectors needed to pick their best squad to battle the old enemy and he also believes Australia can win.
"It seems to me that the bad vibe around the Australian side in recent times has been because of the tour of India, where the pitches were very dry, big turners, and really did not suit the way Australia play their best cricket. England pitches won't be like that," he said.
"I think this Australia side, take away India, has played pretty well over the last couple of years, and can do something that we did back in 1989." Under Allan Border in 1989, Australia secured a 4-0 series triumph in England after the tourists had been similarly written off. They held the Ashes for the next 16 years, led in succession by Border, Taylor and Waugh.