LONDON - Australian batsman David Warner likening the Ashes to a “war” will serve to motivate England, the visitors’ paceman Stuart Broad said, as the teams gear up for a five-match series that begins on November 23.
Warner made the comparison last month, in a clarion call to summon “hatred” towards England that drew a mixed response from ex-players and pundits.
Broad, 31, and no stranger to Ashes controversy having been constantly heckled during the 2013-14 series, said the Australian’s words could fuel England’s bid to retain the urn.
“It is a common theme that ex-Australian players and Australia players are quite vocal in the media,” Broad told Sky Sports. “It is just one of the tactics they use...
“Warner’s a very competitive guy... He’s already talked about the Ashes being like a war for him and we can use that to help us.”
Broad, England’s second highest wicket-taker, said the team were completely focused on preparations for the series. “The Ashes tour is the biggest one you can go on,” he said.
“We’re just desperate to get to Australia and let it begin. Everyone’s been very focused in their training... I think it’s set up to be a brilliant series.”
Australia’s domestic Sheffield Shield tends to open sleepily, with spring sunshine warming the few diehard fans that turn up to regional venues but auditions for coveted Ashes places have given the start of this year’s tournament additional spice.
Australia may be comfortable on their own pitches and confident of fending off an England side likely to be without all-rounder Ben Stokes, their most valuable player, for at least part of the five-Test series.
However, the question of who will bat at six in the order has become an increasing bugbear for a team desperate for a quality all-rounder of their own while also needing some starch in the middle after a worrying string of batting collapses.
Queries over the best man behind the stumps have also grown in volume since the incumbent Matt Wade was dropped for a single one-day international in India earlier this month and then reinstated in the next game.
With less than a month before the first Test, the opening matches of the Sheffield Shield will also be a battle-ground for the pacemen as they look to replace the injured James Pattinson as first understudy to Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
One player desperate for red-ball form will be Victorian Glenn Maxwell, who scored a fine century at number six against India in March but has failed to surpass 50 in seven Test innings since.
With selectors keen to have a part-time bowler able to provide relief for the pacemen over the course of a long campaign, Maxwell’s ability to soak up some overs with his off-spin would be valuable.
The hard-hitting 29-year-old is under pressure from Western Australia’s uncapped Marcus Stoinis, a medium pace-bowling all-rounder who has averaged 86.25 in his eight ODIs.
Another Western Australian in Hilton Cartwright is also a contender after his surprise selection at number six for the second Test against Bangladesh last month.
“In an ideal world you’d want someone like a Ben Stokes who can give you the ideal balance, bat and bowl,” selector Mark Waugh told Sky Sports Radio.
“But I think your number six as it stands is probably going to be a batsman and ideally he bowls a bit.”