London: England captain Joe Root must convince his team they can win in Australia, even if he has to “lie a bit and con” them, says former Ashes-winning skipper Michael Vaughan.
Vaughan, speaking just over a week before England depart, said Steve Smith’s Australians are still a formidable side at home even though they are not the dominant force they once were.
The tourists, who could be without talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes, will be desperate to avoid anything like the 5-0 drubbing handed out to them last time they travelled Down Under in 2013-14 but there are questions over the make-up of the side, particularly the top order.
“His (Root’s) greatest challenge is going to be to convince the team they can win,” said Vaughan.
“It may be that he has to lie a bit and con them. He might have to blow up a few tyres that might be flat and convince them they are good enough to beat this Australian team.
“I don’t think it is right to go there and talk down the Aussies. I’ve been around captains that do that and it doesn’t work. It is worth saying they are good. They are not what they were 20 years ago but they are dangerous and you know what they will produce over five matches.”
Vaughan, who famously captained England to a home Ashes triumph in 2005, ending 16 years of Australian domination, said Root would have to convince his players that they could not blitz the opposition into submission.
“I don’t see them blowing Australia away in three days,” said the former captain.
“They will win over there by playing how they did in 2010-11, by scoring lots of runs in the first innings, batting for periods of time, nullifying good spells of bowling and not thinking ‘we are going to attack all the time’.”
– Hostile Brisbane –
Root’s men, who are Ashes holders after winning at home in 2015, will start their campaign in the notoriously hostile arena of the Gabba in Brisbane on November 23
They may be without Stokes, who will not be on the flight out on October 28, though no final decision has been taken on his involvement in the series.
The Test vice-captain was arrested in September on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm and suspended from internationals until further notice following an apparent fight outside a nightclub.
The powerful all-rounder, who was released without charge but remains under investigation, was included in the Ashes squad despite reportedly injuring his hand in the incident that led to his arrest.
Vaughan, speaking at the launch of BT Sport’s Ashes coverage in London in his capacity as a pundit, admitted that if Stokes were missing, it would be a huge boost for the opposition.
“I am sure Australia respect a lot of our players but the one they fear the most is not going to be there,” he said.
“I’ve not seen too many celebrations from the Australians but I am sure in private they have cracked open a few bottles. If (batsman David) Warner was injured next week and out of the Ashes I am sure you would find the England players celebrating.
“It is not disrespecting Alastair Cook but I would say Stokes is England’s second best player with the bat. With the ball he is erratic at times but he has an impact.
“In the field you know he will produce something. More importantly it is his mindset. I watch England walk out on the field and when Stokes is in the team they walk out two inches taller. If he is not there in Brisbane you would have to say the Australians are clear favourites to win the series.”
England have lost two of their past three tours in Australia 5-0, either side of their 3-1 win in 2010/11.
Following the Brisbane opener, they play further Tests in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.