I know summer doesn’t seem that distant a memory but in less than a week’s time England will be on their way to Pakistan for the first leg of their winter schedule.
The fans, pundits but especially the players are still basking in the glory of winning back the Ashes and the national adulation that followed. But I warn England now, if you’re not fully focused on what lies ahead in the subcontinent, you’re not going to win.
Michael Vaughan’s side are going to find it very difficult in Pakistan. It’s not the batting or bowling but the mental side of the game they will struggle with. The squad and management were building up to the Ashes for 18 months before the Australians arrived. Every single minute of that was worthwhile but now they have to get back to business, forget the Aussies and begin again. Getting prepared for Pakistan will have been very tough. England are a better team than their hosts who are definitely a side in transition. We ought to win and we will win as long as those preparations have been done properly. That is up to Vaughan and coach Duncan Fletcher.
The squad will also face a nasty reminder that there are no guaranteed places in the Test XI. Because of conditions on the subcontinent, England are almost certainly going to play two spinners. That’s why Shaun Udal is travelling — he was the best spinner on the county circuit last season. But his inclusion means one of the Ashes winners, probably Matthew Hoggard, will have to drop out.
It’s how Hoggard and his team-mates react that will determine how successful England are going to be. We’ll see how they go in the early matches but I suspect they will put in a very strong performance to show they really are Australia’s heir apparent as the best side in the world.
Of course, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison and Kevin Pietersen’s involvement in the Super Series won’t have helped them get ready for the tour.
All their team mates enjoyed a few weeks’ well earned rest before getting in some quality time in the nets.
That trio have been playing cricket — of sorts — but in far from ideal conditions.
Test cricket is hard-nosed, shoulder to the wheel stuff. It’s not meant to be easy and England aren’t going to find it easy over the next few months — no matter what they’ve achieved recently.
What they do have is the talent, the players and the attitude to travel to Pakistan and win.