Any negative self-reflection after the Ashes should be left firmly to the vanquished Australians, former England wicketkeeper, Alec Stewart, has said.
Speaking at an event at Mossley Hollins High School in Tameside, Stewart – whose 133 Test appearances is an England record – was keen to emphasise the positives of England’s 3-2 Ashes victory, which saw them stretch their record to five series wins in the last seven against the once-indomitable Australia.
England, with a new coach in charge and a decidedly young team of relatively inexperienced Test cricketers, were emphatic underdogs going into the series against Michael Clarke’s Australian side, cheekily branded ‘Dad’s Army’ by the British press for its numerous more experienced members.
But a flurry of stellar performances from the likes of Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Moeen Ali, Steven Finn, and Mark Wood saw the home side regain the urn with aplomb.
The 1993 Wisden Cricketer of the Year said: “I wouldn’t be too concerned about what we can’t do, I’d look at what we can do, and perhaps it’s Australia that need to look at what they need to improve on.
“We’ve played some good cricket. We’re far from the finished article, but we’re on the road to being a very good side.”
With the backdrop of the passing of a legend of the game – the infamously tough Brian Close, who faced the notorious West Indies attack at the age of 45 in 1976, but died on the 13th of this month – Stewart was also keen not to underplay the magnitude of England’s modern-day success.
“There’s not as much quick, fast-bowling now, but we’ve just won the Ashes,” he said.
“They’ve just taken on Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc and come out on top.
“Facing 90mph thunderbolts is not easy but I thought our players coped very well.”
In spite of Jos Buttler’s tribulations with the bat in the Ashes, in which he averaged just 15.25, Stewart was also quick to praise his fellow wicketkeeper, who he sees as an England star in all three formats.
“He is a fine cricketer. Not everyone scores runs all the time.
“His keeping has been very, very good and his batting will take care of itself.
“He needs to get some runs, but I have no problems with him – I think he’ll be a top, top class Test keeper, One-Day keeper, Twenty20 keeper.
“His runs – we’ve seen it in one-day cricket – he’ll do that in Test cricket as well.”
When asked what Buttler’s recent improvement in his keeping can be attributed to, Stewart, who took a record 404 dismissals for England in both Test and ODI cricket, insisted that his move to Lancashire was crucial for the former Somerset man to get time behind the stumps.
“Just doing [keeping] more, just doing it more and more.
“At Somerset he didn’t keep, that was [Craig] Kieswetter.
“Now he’s come up and is keeping regularly for Lancs, regularly for England. The more you do something the better you’ll get.”
And England are in very good hands with Trevor Bayliss at the helm, according to Stewart, who is involved in the excellent academy work being undertaken by everyone at Surrey.
Bayliss, who previously coached Sri Lanka alongside current England assistant-coach, Paul Farbrace, has extensive experience working in both Australia and on the subcontinent, and Stewart is sure he is the perfect man to take this young England side forward.
“He’s got a good track record wherever he’s been, and the longer he works with the players, the better it will be,” he said.
“It’ll create a good environment.
“As soon as he’s gone in there, we’ve won the Ashes, so his progress chart is looking pretty good.”