MICKEY Arthur believes the chastening experience of a 4-0 Test series whitewash in India will spur the Australians throughout the Ashes.
Bookmakers installed the Australians $4.50 outsiders to reclaim the urn after the announcement of their 16-man touring squad this week.
Much of the pessimism stems from Australia’s underwhelming performances during the recently completed Border-Gavaskar series.
Marred by off-field drama and less than impressive performances on it, Arthur called upon his players to learn from the brutal lessons of the Indian tour rather than banishing them from memory.
“We had a very young squad in India, particularly our batsmen, who would all have come away better players because you can only become better by playing in those conditions,” Arthur told The Daily Telegraph.
“Other than (Michael) Clarke and (Shane) Watson, none of the others that played had ever played a Test match in India, which presents a massive challenge. We need more and more consistent performances from them.”
The Ashes squad is a slightly more experienced one, but with the recent retirements of Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting there weren’t too many experienced heads to call on.
Brad Haddin, a veteran of 44 Tests, returns in a leadership role while Chris Rogers, who has only played a solitary Test but has amassed nearly 10,000 runs playing in England, will certainly add knowledge and experience to the squad.
Overall, it’s a team in transition, says Arthur. And while they may not be able to fill the gaping holes left by Ponting and Hussey just yet, they have the players to do so in the future, provided each player works at improving his game.
“Hopefully in time some of our young batters can fill those boots, but those are massive boots to fill at the moment,” Arthur said.
“But I have no doubt that we have the talent with our younger players to be able to produce in the future, but they need time.
“We realise we’ve got a lot of work to do before the Ashes and I’m calling for a massive improvement from everybody. For us to challenge England in England, we can’t leave anything to chance; our preparation and attention to detail needs to be spot on.”
Being at the helm of a team in transition is a high-pressure position, but the South African admits he loves the challenge and is looking forward to being a part the Ashes series.
“It’s a nice challenge for a coach to be in, with a team in transition, because this is when you do your real hard coaching,” he said.
“The players need coaching, they need information, they need a lot of guidance and assistance. It’s not like a team that’s very settled. These are players who need all the help they can get and I’m enjoying hopefully being able to supervise that.”
Arthur acknowledges the massive task of trying to beat England on their own turf, but he also knows the only way to keep the Australian public happy is by winning.
“We need to improve in all areas in order to put them (England) under pressure, but it’s a challenge we’re all up for,” he said.