Geoffrey Boycott insists it is ‘bloody tough’ to win in Australia and says the hosts will win the Ashes ‘comfortably’ if England lack the ‘desire and commitment’ to succeed.
The 2021-22 Ashes series is due to start on December 8 and finish on January 18, with the England and Wales Cricket Board giving ‘conditional approval’ for the contest to go ahead last week.
England have selected their ‘strongest available’ squad for the tour as they bid to win back the Ashes, with captain Joe Root joined by the likes of Jos Buttler, James Anderson and Stuart Broad in the 17-player party.
‘It is time for the England players to refocus from the “will I, won’t I” talk and shilly-shallying over the Ashes tour to now concentrate on beating Australia,’ Boycott told the Daily Telegraph.
‘It is bloody tough to win in Australia and it takes desire, commitment and 100 per cent focus.
‘We want England to do well but we have to be honest. If you ask people in the streets do you think we can really win even the biggest England fans will say “probably not”.
‘But the most important thing of all is do England’s players have the desire and commitment to succeed? If yes then they have a chance. If not, then Australia will win comfortably.’
Boycott played 17 Tests against Australia, averaging more than 50 against the Baggy Greens and scoring one century and five fifties.
The 80-year-old has been buoyed by Root’s recent form for England – the Yorkshireman scored three centuries in last summer’s Test series against India – but says the rest of the batting line-up could struggle.
‘Runs are the platform for building confidence and Joe Root is our main man,’ Boycott said. ‘He is in the form of his life, he is at the peak age for a batsman and this is the tour to make it count.
‘Sadly, there is not a very good batting line-up behind him. It is a huge tour for Haseeb Hameed. He plays low and will need to adapt and get more upright.
‘Rory Burns has a poor technique but a big heart. He is gutsy and fights like hell for runs.
‘Dan Lawrence, Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler are all in a hurry to play shots. It is exciting when it comes off but you sit on the edge of your seat waiting for them to create their own downfall.’
Despite having concerns about England’s batting group, Boycott believes Ollie Pope could be set for a productive winter in Australia.
Pope, 23, has scored 965 runs in 20 Tests, making a superb century against South Africa in January 2020 but largely struggling for his country since then.
‘One player who could do well is Ollie Pope,’ Boycott added. ‘He has a super technique and if he can show more patience he can score runs.
‘Dawid Malan is suited for Australia. Dawid stays back and waits, makes the bowlers bowl to him and does not go looking to get after the bowlers.
‘He has the patience and concentration to let the sledging go over his head. They will all get plenty of that because the Aussies cannot help themselves.’
Australia hold the Ashes after they retained the urn in 2019 with a 2-2 draw in England.
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