As "The Ashes Effect" seems to finally be coming to an end, a mud-run year awaits England in 2015 - a year that will tell us about what this 'new era' is up to.
I've always seen defeating Australia and South Africa as something that defines a team's mettle. No matter where you play either of the two, if you beat them, you'll need to give yourself a pat on the back or take a bow.
Fact is that you don't have any home advantage when playing against these two because of their enormous amount of capabilities that allow them to adjust to all conditions and hence the reason why they have historically possessed excellence.
Four big challenges for England
2015 brings about four big challenges for England: 1) The ICC WC, 2) The Ashes, 3) UAE Tour and 4) SA Tour.
In a year's time, we'll be able to know how strong the roots are of Cook's new troops. The biggest test of them all, at least in my view, however is the Ashes.
We are all aware of the lead-up to an Ashes series, the pressure that you play with, the pride you play for and the ultimate prize you want. Even the best of them all can fail in such intense battles and thats where the real fight lies in for the young English brigade.
India and Australia: Very different propositions
Playing against India is very simple, see off the new ball and chill. On the contrary, playing against Australia and that too in the Ashes is equally hard; that is because you are not just allowed to relax throughout those 90 overs of a day.
Obviously, there are not going to be many gentle half-vollies from those ruthless Aussies quicks namely Harris, Siddle and Johnson. And neither will there be too many leaves from the likes of Warner, Watson and Haddin.
And then, you always have to tackle the genius of Michael Clarke who has that everlasting righteousness about him. "Excelling in maintaining the pressure on the opponent throughout," is Australia in the laconic sense. Can Robson, Ballance, Buttler, Root, Plunkett and Ali outshine Clarke's grit is the main question.
To make a hot-mess of this Aussie team, you have to get into their skins by giving them a taste of their own medicine, by playing an aggressive brand of Cricket.
This is something that this team will need to learn as quickly as possible to be able to taste success for longer period of time.
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