Michael Vaughan on Aussie hatred and English hopes
The former England captain looks ahead to The Ashes before taking the mic with BT Sport
Michael Vaughan famously skippered England to Ashes success in 2005 – the first time that precious urn had been wrested from Australian hands since 1989.
He has since made the transition from the middle to the media. This winter he will join the likes of old foe Ricky Ponting, test teammate Graeme Swann and broadcasting legend Geoffrey Boycott in the BT Sport commentary box, bringing the story of The Ashes back to your venue.
Ahead of the first ball being bowled next week, we sat down for a pre-series chat.
Is the pub a good place to watch The Ashes?
Absolutely, if you look at Lions tours Down Under or to New Zealand. I wake up early and the vibe you get through the screen is amazing whether it’s the red of the Lions or the Barmy Army at the Ashes. You just want to be there. It always comes across the screen that the contest of any sports over that side of the world, particularly when England are involved, are of high importance to the public. We hate Australia. I have some of my best mates there and I love them as mates but in terms of cricket it’s a hatred and I am sure people in pubs and clubs we feel the same. We all desperately want the England side to do well.
Do you think they will do well?
The start is the key to it. Brisbane (First Test) is such an important week for the team, emotionally and psychologically. Australia haven’t lost there for 30 odd years. The ground and the wicket will be different to anything England will have played on in their preparations. They will try to intimidate England with pace and bounce. If they get out of Brisbane, I think they’ve got a great chance. If they get rolled over in Brisbane, they could be struggling.
What qualities does Joe Root have as a captain?
Strategically and tactically I think he’s smart. He’s got a really good way about him in terms of cricket. The respect that the other players have for him is high. He’s a good guy. This will be a test for him. He has to convince the rest of the team that they can win and the way he will ultimately do that is by scoring lots of runs himself. He is seven games into his reign so he’s a kid as a captain but from what I saw in the summer I think England are in safe hands. I think it will probably be a year or so until we see the Joe Root captain that we can associate ourselves with. I’m one of his best pals but at the minute I don’t really know what kind of captain he is, and I don’t think we’ll know this winter.
Would you be able to use the negativity around the Ben Stokes situation to bring the team closer?
It really is down to the individuals producing performance. My focus always as a captain was to focus on the individuals playing in the side and getting them in the right state of mind to play to their maximum. That’s what Joe has to do. If Ben’s not there, he’s not there. It’s a massive cog in the wheel missing, you could potentially say it’s a wheel missing. England walk out with Ben Stokes taller. As much as they will put it to one side, realism tells you they are going to miss Ben Stokes.
Other than Root where will England’s runs come from?
Cook. I don’t think he’ll get 700 runs like he did in 2010/11 but he’ll need 500. Root will need 450-500 and one of the inexperienced players will have to play well. You’d hope the engine room of Ali and Bairstow and Chris Woakes fire.
Where are the biggest weaknesses in the Australian side?
I think it’s similar. There’s a vulnerability about Australia like there is with England but they are on home territory, so they will get comfort from that. There’s enough question marks. They’re a good team but not a great team like they were in the 1990s. Warner and Smith are very unorthodox and hard to bowl to but their bowling attack, I think you can play to that, there’s no surprises. There’s quality but there’s no mystery.
Would you rather be out in the middle than the commentary box?
No. I couldn’t think of anything worse. I’d had enough by 2009. I have never ever thought I wish I was back playing. After 20 years my knee and my mind everything had gone. I’m quite happy in an air-conditioned room watching the game. That’ll do for me.
- Watch The Ashes exclusively live on BT Sport with coverage of the first Test from 11pm, Wednesday 22nd November. Never miss a moment with daily highlights on BT Sport, as well as short highlights available for free every evening from 6pm on bt.com and on the BT Sport App. For more information, visit BT.com/sport
- Read our Ashes preview piece with full fixture listings here