ENGLAND’S superiority over Australia is so pronounced that skipper Michael Clarke is the only player in the tourists’ squad good enough to demand inclusion in a combined Ashes team.
That is the view of former England captain Sir Ian Botham, who bullishly predicts that Alastair Cook’s men will whitewash the Aussies in both the imminent series and the return contest Down Under in the winter.
Australia are widely considered clear outsiders to claim the urn, ahead of the first Test at Trent Bridge on Wednesday, having endured a tumultuous year culminating in the sacking of coach Mickey Arthur last week.
A 4-0 series thumping in India included the notorious “homework” row, while David Warner’s Twitter misdemeanours and bar-room scuffle with England batsman Joe Root plunged the squad into farce.
The sudden sacking of Arthur and appointment of Darren Lehmann in his stead have prompted signs of improvement, however, and despite his confidence Botham insists they should not be considered weak.
“I would never use the word weak, there’s no such thing as a weak Australia,” Botham, who today invites readers to bid for the chance to join him on a charity walk across Sri Lanka, told City A.M.
“But there is a gulf, I think, if you look at the sides man for man. Michael Clarke is probably the only player in that side who would get into the England team.”
Expanding on his prediction that the two Ashes series will finish 10-0 to England, he added: “It’s almost a reverse from 10-15 years ago, when Australia dominated. Australia have got a lot of hard work to do.
“A lot of England players can make a big impression this summer: Joe Root, there’s youngsters pushing for places – England are in very healthy form, whether it’s the bowling or batting department, and wicket-keeping. They’ve got a lot of people banging on the door.”
While Australia ponder their arduous task, Botham is preparing for his own, in the form of an eight-day trek across Sri Lanka to raise funds for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. The 57-year-old has been hitting the treadmill and embarking on long walks near his Yorkshire home in preparation – and you could be joining him on the 160-mile expedition across the picturesque island by entering our auction.
“It’s going to be like nothing I have attempted before,” he said. “It’s going to be arduous in the extreme, with fierce heat in challenging tropical conditions, but I am looking forward to teaming up with a City A.M. reader as a member of the group. I have strong connections with Sri Lanka and I know I can raise a lot of money for young people there.”