Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting is impressed with England’s brash style of play, famously called ‘Bazball’, under new coach Brendon McCullum but he will be keen to see if they can play the same way during the Ashes series.McCullum has made a superb start to his international coaching career, with the New Zealander helping England to four straight Test victories since his appointment in May on the back of a more attacking and aggressive approach in all aspects of the game.
While the Australian great has been impressed with what McCullum and England have produced in recent times, he wonders whether such an attacking style of play will stand up under a high-intensity Ashes series.
“So far it has been unbelievable, and it has actually almost reinvigorated Test match cricket again, hasn’t it?” It’s not just coaching, but to be able to change the attitude of some of the English players to not be scared about getting out and to be fully committed to thinking about scoring runs and when you get the ball in your hand to be as aggressive as you can and set nice and aggressive fields,” Ponting said in the latest episode of The ICC Review. “The interesting thing is going to be Australia over there (in England) in the middle of next year for an Ashes series. When the real pressure of an Ashes series comes around, it’ll be interesting to see if this England team is willing to play the same way,” he added.
Asked who would win an Ashes series in England if it started next month, Ponting was reluctant to give a simple one-word answer on this intriguing hypothetical, he did say England would start favourites based upon their current form.
“I don’t think there is much between the teams right now. I think there was a big gap between the England team that toured Australia last summer and the current Australian team. I thought there was a big gap in class. Just on the back of what they have done in their home conditions, England would probably start slight favourites if it was to happen next month,” he added.
England host World Test Championship leaders South Africa in a three-match series starting next month and then travel to New Zealand for two more Tests early next year. They then battle it out against Australia at home in England in the middle of 2023 in a bid to reclaim the Ashes. Ponting will be eyeing off how McCullum’s team faces its upcoming schedule of matches and according to him , the attitude of England players will be key to their success.
“It comes down to skill, obviously, but it also comes down to attitude. If these current players are willing to play the same way all the time, regardless of the scenario, regardless of the situation, then it is sustainable. I think if you look back through probably the best teams in cricket’s history, I think they have been able to keep pretty much a good, solid core group of players together,” the former Australian captain said.
“And what England have got right now is a good balance of youth and experience. Some of the younger guys they have brought into that team for that last series obviously didn’t have the mental scars that some of the older other guys might have had.
“The emergence of (Jonny) Bairstow in the middle order and Joe Root continuing on what has been an amazing 18 months, it’s going to come down to the attitude. The players are not going to lose their skills in the next few months, but if they just happen to have a few bad games where this really positive, aggressive approach doesn’t pay off, are they going to be strong enough mentally to keep playing that way?
“That is the challenge that Brendon and the players are going to have, and it is going to be intriguing for me and a lot of others to sit back and watch,” he added.