Mitchell Starc has rubbished England bowler Stuart Broad's suggestion that the previous Ashes series, played in Australia in 2021, was not a 'real Ashes' series because quarantine restrictions at the time had hampered England's performance. Australia enjoyed a 4-0 series victory last time out, but Broad has maintained the England team was significantly disadvantaged by having to complete a two-week quarantine prior to the first Test.
The 2021-22 Ashes series was nearly a failure to launch for a variety of reasons, with England threatening not to travel at all unless they were allowed to quarantine with family members, a concession that was eventually agreed upon. Though the coronavirus pandemic had threatened the viability of the series on a number of other fronts, Starc said Broad's suggestion made a mockery of the various concessions the travelling party had for their quarantine.
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“But in my mind I don’t class that as a real Ashes. The definition of Ashes cricket is elite sport with lots of passion and players at the top of their game," Broad said earlier in May.
“Nothing about that series was high level performance because of the Covid restrictions. The training facilities, the travel, not being able to socialise. I’ve written it off as a void series.”
Starc, along with Steve Smith, bristled at the suggestion England had been disadvantaged thanks to their quarantine requirements. He pointed out their arrangements had been a far cry from what was expected of returning Australian citizens, who were typically housed in a hotel for two weeks, without being permitted to leave their rooms.
Instead, England had the run of an entire Gold Coast resort, being allowed to leave their rooms to play golf, go swimming, as well as having dedicated time at Metricon Stadium for the team to train. Starc said that while there was no doubt quarantine would have had some impact on England, there was no grounds to say the series was 'void' as a result.
“The funniest thing out of that was they called it quarantine on the Gold Coast. I did seven of them. That was the easiest by a country mile,” Starc told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“The Poms had the pool, the gym, they were in a resort on the Gold Coast, they trained at Metricon, weren’t confined to their rooms and had their families there. Was that really quarantine?
"They were still allowed to play golf on tour. Is that an excuse for 4-0? Dunno. It was a pretty good series to be a part of.”
Smith dismissed Broad's comments as little more than 'banter' from the English bowler, conceding that it wasn't an 'ideal scenario' but also pushing back on Broad's 'void series' comment. He said that the Australian team was also affected by the pandemic throughout the series, with captain Pat Cummins missing the fourth Test after being identified as a close contact of a positive case.
“We were all there and playing so it was a little bit odd, you know? He‘s a nice guy and loves throwing out some good banter, so it’s all part of it,” Smith said. “It certainly wasn‘t ideal scenarios.
"But the whole world was going through it and we were in the middle of a pandemic, so we couldn’t really complain too much. We were actually out there being able to do what we love, so I don‘t really have much more to add to it.”
Stuart Broad inspired Scott Boland improvements ahead of Ashes
Meanwhile, Broad has seemingly inspired Aussie fast bowling counterpart Scott Boland to find ways to counter England's 'Bazball' style inspired by coach Brendon McCullum. This will be the 34-year-old's first Ashes tour after a stellar start to his seven-Test career.
Boland has taken 28 Test wickets at an average of 13.42 and concedes a miserly 2.18 runs per over. England are well aware of the threat he poses after Boland stunned them with a spell of 6-7 on debut at the MCG on their last tour of Australia.
When he does get to play in the Ashes series, Boland is expecting the aggressive England batters to come after him to try and get him to alter his own plans and throw him off his game. England pacemen Broad is the bowler Boland has watched closely in his own conditions.
"I am a similar bowler to Broad who doesn't try and swing the ball as much. We are both trying to seam the ball and bowl wobble seam," he said.
"I take learnings away from watching him. When they have England on Sky Sports and show the slow-mos of how Broad is releasing the ball and how the ball comes out of the hand I pick up little tips and tricks out of that.
"I come around the wicket to left-handers straight away and he always goes around the wicket to our left-handers. Over the past few years I have tried to copy that.
"Earlier in my career I wasn't as comfortable doing that … but now I am experienced enough that I can hit the right spot around the wicket straight away. They have (Ben) Duckett, (Ben) Stokes, Broad and (Jack) Leach in their Test side who are left-handers."
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