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Eng can give Aus a run for their money: Dodemaide

Published: Saturday, April 3, 2004, 20:09 [IST]
 
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London:Tony Dodemaide is convinced Michael Vaughan's men can give Australia a run for their money come next year's Ashes series in England.

And the former Australia pace bowler is in a good position to assess the strength of the "old enemy", who have been outclassed in every Ashes campaign since they last won a series in Test cricket's longest-running contest back in 1986-87.

For the past five years Dodemaide, 40, has been head of cricket at Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) but is now set to return home later this month to become the chief executive of Western Australia.

And on the eve of his departure from Lord's, which the ex-Victoria and Sussex seamer labelled the "Vatican City of cricket", Dodemaide said he expected a closely fought Ashes series in 2005.

"I think it will be more competitive," Dodemaide said at Lord's as behind him potential stars of the future were put through their paces during one of MCC's Easter coaching course in the indoor nets.

"England have got talented young players coming through. They've got an attack which is gaining in confidence," added Dodemaide in a reference to the pacemen who have helped Vaughan's team into a 2-0 series lead in their ongoing four Test campaign in the Caribbean.

"The England team has been developing over time. It does take time. It did in Australia, it took several years for players to come through and to understand what was required."

But Dodemaide, who played 10 Tests and 24 One-day Internationals in the late 1980s and early 1990s, added that English cricket as a whole would not be fully convinced of a reversal in fortunes until they defeated Australia.

"Everyone in England does measure themselves against the old enemy so next year is a pivotal time. "But on this indication they should perform strongly. So it's perhaps fortunate that I am going now because if England do beat Australia next year it won't be a good place to be."

However, not everything is rosy in the garden of English cricket. Legendary Australia wicketkeeper Rodney Marsh, now an England selector, publicly questioned whether the players he managed on England 'A's unsuccessful tour of India had the determination and passion required to play at the highest level.

Marsh's comments were all the more acute as he is also the head of England's academy and charged with developing the country's next generation of Test cricketers.

But Dodemaide said that the structure of English cricket, with its 18 Counties, made Marsh's job harder than it was when he held a similar post in Australia.

"We take a pyramid structure for granted. There are only six states (in Australia). I recall playing my first game of Premier League Grade cricket in Melbourne and the captain said to me 'keep going because you are only two steps away from Test cricket'.

"Because there are so few available places and the competition tends to be much fiercer players do come to the party or they are weeded out quite early. I don't think there's less capability in England, in fact there should be more because there's so many more players playing the game."

However, Dodemaide added that England did have talented younger players with the right mental approach citing paceman James Anderson, on tour in the West Indies and batsman Andrew Strauss, the Middlesex captain, called up into the One-day squad, as two to watch.

"James Anderson is a very natural young player. He had a great start to his international career but is still very much learning about the game. But he shows the work ethic needed to make himself the best in the world.

"Andrew Strauss, who I see a lot at Middlesex (the County are based at Lord's) impresses me as a player and as a young man as well. "He seems to have the overall materials to make him an international player.

"You want people who want to take England forward. They might not be the most talented but they will take you a lot further than the ones who haven't got the drive."

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