England ‘content, relaxed, excited’ ahead of Ashes

England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow said: ‘If you can’t get up for an Ashes series, what can you get up for’? (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2017
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England ‘content, relaxed, excited’ ahead of Ashes

SYDNEY: England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow said the tourists were “content, relaxed, excited” as they arrived in Brisbane on Sunday ahead of this week’s opening Ashes Test.
Bairstow, a veteran of the 2013-14 tour when England were whitewashed 5-0, said he would welcome the return of suspended all-rounder Ben Stokes but was confident the squad would do England proud at the Gabba regardless.
“Content, relaxed, excited,” the 28-year-old told reporters at Brisbane airport when asked to sum up the mood in the camp.
“We’re ready to go, we’re excited about the prospect of the first Test.
“We know that we’ve worked hard leading up to this test match but it’s about how we front up on the first morning of the first Test at the Gabba when everyone’s watching.
“(But) if you can’t get up for an Ashes series, if you can’t get up for England against Australia, what can you get up for?”
Vice-captain Stokes has been suspended since being arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm outside a Bristol nightclub in September.
A report in Britain’s Daily Telegraph on Saturday said that police would make a decision over whether to charge Stokes this week, potentially leaving him clear to join the England squad before the second test in Adelaide.
“It would be amazing if Stokesy comes out here. He’s a fantastic cricketer,” said Bairstow.
“We don’t know what’s going on there. It’s completely out of our hands. We’re hoping it’s resolved sooner rather than later because at the end of the day we want the best cricketers playing in the Ashes.
“That’s the series that we want.”
Meanwhile Australia coach Darren Lehmann defended the squad selection for the Ashes opener on Sunday and urged former players to back the team as they prepare to try and wrest the famous urn back from English hands.
Spin-bowling great Shane Warne was among the former players who questioned the decision to include wicketkeeper Tim Paine, while the inclusion of veteran batsman Shaun Marsh also raised a few eyebrows.
Speaking in Brisbane, where the series gets underway at the Gabba on Thursday, Lehmann justified the selections and called for the whole country to support the team.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, aren’t they?” he said.
“I’d just like all our players, ex-players, to be really positive about the Australian cricket team. Let’s just get everyone from Australia behind the Australian cricket team and let’s get moving forward.”
Paine, who played the last of his four Tests seven years ago, was the most controversial selection mainly because he does not even keep wicket for his state Tasmania.
“We’ve watched him keep a fair bit,” Lehmann added. “He’s a high-quality keeper.
“He’s been in good form with the gloves, as he always has been, and he has been very good for us in the T20s.” Few players are more divisive in Australia than 34-year-old Marsh, who looks likely to fill the No. 6 slot in the batting order on his eighth recall to the test side.
“He’s in good form, so he’ll do well,” Lehmann added. “He’s pretty calm.
“He’s grown up a lot in the last few years and played some important knocks for us. He’s really confident within himself.”
Lehmann also said Australia would not be distracted by the Stokes saga.
“We can’t worry about it at the moment,” Lehmann said. “For us it’s more of a case of dealing with the squad they’ve got here.”
The first Test starts at the Gabba on Thursday.


Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo's toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

Updated 30 min 9 sec ago
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Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo's toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

  • Portuguese superstar has moved to Italian giants in deal worth nearly $120 million
  • Ronaldo scored 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid

LONDON: Love him or loathe him, you have to admire Cristiano Ronaldo’s character.
At a time of life when lesser mortals are lured by big paychecks to the likes of Qatar or China, the mercurial Madeiran has opted for what will be his biggest challenge yet at Juventus.
His career over the last decade has been played out under the cloud of the never-ending debate — “Ronaldo or Messi; who is better?”
Thankfully, that circus was quietened somewhat at the recent World Cup. Some flashes of pure brilliance aside, neither player made a big enough impact to lead their respective teams to glory and Messi’s wait for an international trophy goes on.
And, while both players are undeniably in a league of their own, the fact Ronaldo does have a European Championship title under his belt will always tip the argument toward the Portuguese — especially for those who measure greatness in statistics and trophies.
In fairness, Ronaldo’s statistics are mind-boggling. His stint at Manchester United, where he cut his teeth and started to show his potential as a great of the game, was instrumental in the club winning three Premier League titles and their third European crown. His staggering 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid saw him become the Spanish giant’s record goalscorer on his way to winning everything under the sun.
But the Premier League and La Liga are leagues in which attacking footballers flourish. With the dawning of wall-to-wall TV coverage, they have both been transformed to entertain the billions of people who tune in every week — and in this day and age, goalscoring superstars win you fans, not defenses.
The art of defending has all-but disappeared and the culture of building a spine through a team has slowly but surely been eroded away. Nobody wants to watch an engrossing, absorbing, end-to-end goalless draw anymore — it is all about 6-5 thrillers.
But, not so in Italy.
Serie A, for all its scandals and fall from grace since its heady days of the 1990s, is still an extremely difficult league to win. It is a league in which fans and managers place great emphasis on defending, on building teams from back-to-front (not the other way around) and on the mentality of “you cannot lose if you don’t concede.”
Granted, Juventus have walked Serie A for the past seven seasons; it is to be expected from one of the richest clubs in the world. But rarely have they won it at a canter. Never once have they scored anywhere near 100 goals in a season to win it — unlike Manchester City in last season’s Premier League, or Barcelona and Real Madrid almost every season in the same period.
And not once has Serie A’s top-goalscorer reached the dizzying heights Ronaldo (and Messi) hit in La Liga season after season, nor has it always been a Juventus player claiming the golden boot.
This all points to a monumental challenge for Ronaldo. On paper, he should not find it as easy to score goals in Serie A and with the marked improvement of Napoli, Roma and Lazio recently, nor will it be an easy ride for Juventus to claim an eighth scudetto in a row this year.
So, while Messi prefers to stay in one country and within his comfort zone of the defense-shy Spanish league, if a 30-something Ronaldo succeeds in Italy — or, better yet, guides Juventus to the European glory the fans crave so much — it would be his most remarkable achievement yet.
And it would put the tiresome debate over who is the greatest ever to bed, once and for all.
No contest.