Michael Vaughan, the former England skipper, believes that Joe Root’s greatest challenge on his first Ashes tour as captain will be to improve consistency in his team.
England, fresh from home series wins against South African and Windies, head to Australia in November for a five-match series, desperate to exact revenge for the 5-0 drubbing they suffered in 2013-14.
Despite their successful summer, Root’s men have had some wobbly moments, being soundly beaten in the second matches of both series by the touring teams.
Vaughan, who is happier with the state of the team now than after their humiliating 340-run loss against South Africa, said it was crucial that England avoid a hammering in the first Test in Brisbane, where they have a poor record.
“The way the team has played for the past few years is they have been inconsistent and Root will want to bring consistency,” Vaughan told AFP on the sidelines of the Betting On Sports conference in London. “I don’t mean not lose a game, that happens, but the problem is when they have lost they have been hammered, bowled out in a session or a day.
“Against West Indies in the second Test they fought their way back into the game after being outplayed in the first two days and only just lost. Lose the first day against Australia and you are gone.”
Vaughan, who said there would be two or three players on each side who would have question marks over them ahead of the first Test, believes several will be determined to put matters right after England were hammered under Alastair Cook on their last tour Down Under.
England regained the Ashes at home in 2015 so travel to Australia as holders. “The last memory for these players or some of them of touring Australia is the 5-0 thrashing,” said Vaughan, who captained England 51 times. “There was turmoil, the (Kevin) Pietersen fallout, (Graeme) Swann retiring abruptly and management issues. They will try and put it right this winter. It won’t be easy but if they can get something out of Brisbane then there is hope. Lose and it will be difficult, but above all don’t get blown away so at least morale is all right coming to Adelaide.”
Vaughan said it was crucial Root and the selectors be ruthless in the selection of the teams in the pre-Test warm-up matches. “You have to win these so you arrive in Brisbane with strong morale,” he said. “Don’t feel as if you have to play 13-a-side in these games, where everyone gets a piece of the action. Be ruthless in your selection, get your first XI out and into form going into the first Test.”
The former captain was “excited” about the start Root has made in the role with England, but said that it was too early to judge him.
“I’ve said before that Joe as captain has been given a great pass, with the players he has,” said Vaughan. “His declaration at Headingley (against the West Indies, setting them a 322-run target with just over a day’s play remaining), that is the way I expect him to play cricket.
“Even though it didn’t work, if they had caught their catches it would have done. I am excited how he has gone about his business and I am excited as to where he can take the team. However, I still don’t think we will know fundamentally what sort of captain Joe is for a year or so.”
The first Ashes Test takes place in Brisbane from November 23, with further matches to follow in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney.