London: England captain Nasser Hussain has set the tone for the upcoming Ashes series by warning his players they must be psychologically ready to beat Australia instead of settling for just competing with it.
Hussain's squad head for Australia next week looking to end a run of seven successive defeats in Test series against its oldest opponents. And despite a revival in its fortunes under its Indian-born skipper, few pundits give the English much chance of pulling off their first Ashes series win since 1986- 87, when Mike Gatting's side triumphed Down Under. The fiercely competitive Hussain however is not one to let history overwhelm him. "Things like that are there to be broken," he said. "When we went off to the sub-continent facts like that were thrown at our team and we turned that round." Hussain's own commitment to the cause has been underlined by his decision to fly his pregnant wife Karen out to Australia rather than have to interrupt the tour for the birth of his second child. Hussain, his wife and their 16-month-old son Jacob were due to fly out on Thursday, six days earlier than the rest of the squad because Karen would not be able to fly much later. The new baby is due on November 20, the day before the second Test starts in Adelaide. Hussain said England had to go into this tour with a new attitude. "The old days of going out to compete are gone. We've got to get on with it and look at ways of beating them rather than telling everyone how good they are. "There are field settings and tactics you can beat Australia with. It's up to me as captain and Duncan Fletcher as a coach to work that out as soon as possible," the 34- year-old said. Hussain said it was vital he set the right tone from the outset. "I've got to try to captain in a positive, aggressive sort of manner. Rather than go out and say you (Australia) are great, whatever you want is fine by us and we worship you lot. "Everyone knows Australia is a great side. But I don't see why you should be intimidated by it. "They play really tough but you get a great deal of enjoyment from doing well against them. "The one thing that is intimidating is their style of cricket. I hope everyone is ready for it." Hussain's optimism has been tempered by Darren Gough's revelation that he might not be fit for the first two Tests. The Yorkshire fast bowler has not played Test cricket for over a year and has undergone three operations in the past seven months as he bids to regain fitness following a knee injury. Hussain, while understanding of Gough's situation, said his comments were not what he wanted to hear in the build-up to the Ashes. "When the side was selected, we knew Darren wouldn't be getting off the flight and straight into 100 per cent cricket. "He needs rehab like every fast bowler coming back from major injury. Obviously, it's disappointing to hear him - and it might have been Darren being a pessimist because he's had a rough year - ruling himself out of the first two Test matches. "I want each individual player believing that the purpose of them being out there is to be fit and playing for England, not a 'wait and see' sort of attitude." Gough has not played Test cricket since August 2001 and made only a single first- class appearance for Yorkshire last season.