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Butcher: England from "irrelevant" Published: 18 November 2010

One time captain Mark Butcher says England's players must get mentally ready for the pressure of an Ashes series and their good form in warm-up matches is "irrelevant".

Butcher, and Honorary Life Member of MCC, who once captained England in place of the injured Nasser Hussain against New Zealand in 1999 said:

"Getting runs in the warm-ups is irrelevant when it comes to the Test.

"It’s been good for the captain to get runs because when the media mind-games are being played pre-series it’s one less thing for him to think about.

"But the atmosphere in a quiet little game down in Tasmania, with about 35 people watching is going to be completely different to the baying madness of Melbourne or even Brisbane.

"It’s up to batsmen to get themselves in the right mental state as much as anything. I know a lot of players go on about time in the middle etcetera, etcetera and it does play a part but it’s not the only way to get ready for a Test series.

"Different people like different ways to prepare and it’s up to everyone in the squad to do their own thing and get ready if they’re called upon."

"From a personal point of view I didn’t use to particularly enjoy the warm-up games, I would have much preferred to spend time getting my mind and my game right away from the middle.

Batsmen must be ready

The former Surrey left-hander backed the England selectors' decision to expose only their first choice batting line-up to match conditions in Australia - though he sounded a note of caution about possible injuries.

_"It’s the right move to have selected the same batting line-up in all three games._Butcher added.

"It’s hard on the people that don’t get a go but that’s just the reality of touring these days.

"They made it clear these weren’t warm-up matches they were First Class matches to be won and also to give his first XI every chance of being in top nick when the reached Brisbane.

"The only way to do that was to let them play in all the games.

"It’s tough because somebody could always break their finger in the nets before Brisbane and [then] someone is in who hasn’t had a hit but that’s the chance you take really.

"It’s up to the guys like [Eoin] Morgan on the side to make sure they’re in as good order as they possibly can be."

Aussie's gulf in quality

Butcher, who scored three Ashes centuries during his seven year Test career, was optimistic in his assessment of England's chances of retaining the Urn:

"I don’t think it’s wrong that we’re getting quite confident with our performances so far because there is a long history going back over Australia tours where the touring side gets a good hammering from a state team.

"What we’re seeing is that Australian cricket, in terms of its depth, is not as strong as it once was.

"An Australia A side might have had people like Stuart Law, Greg Blewett or Darren Lehman in it in years gone by.

"There is a guy playing [in Hobart], Callum Ferguson, who averages 36 in First Class cricket and yet they’re talking about playing him in the first Test.

"It gives you an idea of the gulf in quality compared to the past."

Brisbane 'disaster'

The former England opener also recalled the 'disaster' in Brisbane in 2002. In the series opener then England skipper Nasser Hussain won the toss and shocked everyone by opting to put Australia in to bat:

"It was a disaster!" Butcher chuckled.

"I was putting my pads on when he came back into the dressing room - as were [Marcus] Trescothick and [Michael] Vaughan. We’d heard the roar go up and knew we’d won the toss.

"Nobody had been informed that we were going to bowl had we won the toss - everyone assumed that we’d bat because the pitch looked like an absolute belter!"

England went on to lose that match by 384 runs and also lost the Series 4-1. Butcher will be amongst the England fans hoping this winter doesn't see a repeat.


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