The 2021/22 Ashes series has arguably been close to complete domination from Australia despite not being able to name an unchanged line-up once throughout the series.
Australia’s bowling attack particularly has suffered. Josh Hazlewood continues to battle a rib injury which saw him withdrawn for the Adelaide test alongside Pat Cummins who was a ‘close contact’ to a positive COVID-19 case.
Their replacements for the second test, Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser, both picked up injury niggles throughout the match, opening the door for new fan favourite, Scott Boland to be added to the squad and subsequently make his debut at the MCG and star again the following week at the SCG.
Since the Ashes series in 2019, the only other genuine pace bowler to play for Australia outside of Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Hazlewood until this Ashes series were James Pattinson who retired ahead of the Ashes summer, opting to focus on Sheffield Shield and County cricket for the remainder of his career.
As a result, there have been more changes to the bowling attack in the four matches of this series alone than combination of tests against India, New Zealand, and Pakistan across the previous two summers.
Australia have had the luxury of relying on the same trio of pace bowlers which have proven to be a successful hand throughout recent years. There was every chance that the amount of changes in the current series could have jeopardised the integrity of the bowling unit.
That has proven to not be the case as Mitchell Starc describes culture in the Australian dressing room as one that allows newcomers to thrive.
“The relationship that we’ve all had for a number of years now makes it really easy for guys coming into the sqaud or playing eleven,” Starc told media on Wednesday morning.
“Bowler’s are generally pretty close on and off the field, so I think that obviously we’ve got fantastic depth at the moment, we’ve seen the guys that have come in, throughout this series in particular, they’ve come in and performed straight away,
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“So whether that be those relationships we’ve had for a while now, whether that’s just clear messaging that we’ve got as a group, certainly from Patty as well as a captain, it’s just been fantastic to see the guys that have come in, they’ve performed, it’s fantastic for them.”
The current Australian squad has given selectors plenty of headaches when it comes to selection this series, with just about every new inclusion making an immediate impact on inclusion or return to the team. Whether it be centuries from Travis Head and Usman Khawaja, or five wicket hauls from Jhye Richardson and Scott Boland in their test return and debut respectivley.
“Obviously a couple guys playing their first test, and Jhye coming back as well and performing, and then as an extended group, even things like Uzzie (Usman Khawaja) coming back in and scoring double tons, that’s been awesome to see the whole group perform when needed,” Starc said.
Boland in particular is one that has exploded out of the blocks in his first two test matches for Australia which is quite impressive after not being selected in the initial Ashes squad.
“He’s been a fantastic force for Victoria for a long time, and to have the record that he does playing at the MCG and Junction Oval, he’s fairly incredible and just transitioned that into test cricket really easily with how he’s performed over the last two tests, he’s been fantastic for the group.”
The overall culture around the dressing room has been a driving factor for the teams success, with Starc referencing the mentality from the 2019 series being carried through to today’s squad.
“From the get go we took in a ‘squad mentality’ approach to that (2019 Ashes) series and ultimately we retained the Ashes through the series, that was a group effort, much the same as it has been this series.”
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