England’s chances of retaining Ashes later this year depend largely on the performance of their strike fast bowler Steve Harmison, former Australian captain Ian Chappell said on Sunday.
England defend the Ashes they won at home last year against Australia in the first of five Test matches in Brisbane, starting on November 23.
“So much depends on how Steve Harmison bowls. It may be a reason why they gave Andrew Flintoff the captaincy — apparently he’s very matey with Harmison,” said Chappell, a senior TV cricket commentator, told the Sun-Herald newspaper.
“Some of the stuff I saw from him against Pakistan (in the recent Test series) was absolute crap. But if he bowls as well as he can, England will be right in it.”
Harmison missed the recent One-day International (ODI) series against Pakistan with back problems.
Chappell said England’s decision to opt for Flintoff as skipper over Andrew Strauss showed a change in attitude with Australia’s traditional Ashes foes. “They could have gone the safe route and made Strauss captain. But they won the Ashes by taking the aggressive route and picking someone like (batsman) Kevin Pietersen,” Chappell said.
“Logic says that to retain the Ashes, they’ve got to keep taking risks and they’ve done that by making Flintoff captain.”
Chappell said it also makes sense that Flintoff was preferred as captain as he understands the tactical side of bowling better than opening batsman Strauss. “What does a captain do with batting? He basically just picks the order. The important side is out on the field,” he said.
“Who better to understand bowling than a bowler? There haven’t been many bowling captains and that’s probably been a mistake. There’s no reason why Flintoff can’t do it. The danger is that he’s coming back from serious injury and needs to find his form as a bowler. He might overbowl himself in a bid to lift the team.
“They’ll miss (injured) Michael Vaughan’s captaincy but Flintoff is a bit of a Shane Warne: he loves competing. When the heat’s on, Flintoff will want to bowl, but he can’t do it all the time.
“That’s when Strauss will have to know when to step in and say, ‘Not now, save it for later’.
“If everything goes right for England, it will be very competitive. But it could easily turn bad for them,” Chappell added.
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