Jason Gillespie has, in many ways, a foot in both camps ahead of the forthcoming Ashes. But the true blue Aussie in him shines through when giving his series prediction to yorkshireccc.com.
“Australia 3-1, mate,” said the Yorkshire and Australia legend ahead of Friday’s opening Test of five at Edgbaston.
“There’s going to be a lot of expectation on England in England, but I reckon it’s going to be a tough one for them. I think Australia are going to win this series and win well.”
No doubt, however, Gillespie will want to see some personal success for the Yorkshire players he coached and built a rapport with during his time in charge as head coach at Headingley between November 2011 and September 2016.
Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root flourished under Dizzy’s leadership whenever they were available. Root even lifted the first of back-to-back Championship titles at Trent Bridge in 2014. Harry Brook was a young buck with a burgeoning reputation.
“Brooky was in the Academy when I was coaching Yorkshire, and I know a lot of the very fine coaches in the pathway were glowing about him and singing his praises,” said Gillespie.
“I remember Rich Pyrah saying, ‘This kid’s going to be a superstar’.”
Brook, 24, has taken international cricket by storm over the last nine months, winning the T20 World Cup in Australia at the end of last year and scoring four hundreds in his first seven Test Matches.
He was quickly labelled as the best batter in the world at present by fans and some pundits following standout winter Test displays in New Zealand and Pakistan.
“The way he was smacking them, it was hard not to draw those comparisons,” continued Gillespie. “He just went out, and his movements were good. It looked like he was batting with a genuine barn door. It was great to see.
“They’ve obviously been given a real license to go and enjoy themselves. I’ve been really impressed with him, someone like Ben Duckett as well.
“You hear it a lot, ‘Just go out and play boys’. But it looks as if Stokes and McCullum have taken that freedom to a new level.”
There was a word of caution, however.
“Look, Brooky will come under more scrutiny,” said Gillespie. Not just him, but all the England batters. Are they going to stick or twist if things don’t quite go as well? It will be fascinating to see.”
Gillespie spoke to us earlier this week, ahead of flying into England, where he will be a tour group host at Edgbaston this week and the second Test at Lord’s.
He will also be heading back to Yorkshire for ‘An evening with Jason Gillespie’ at Rawdon Cricket Club on Saturday June 24, hosted by BBC cricket commentator Jonathan Doidge.
The two-time Championship winning coach is also part of the BBC commentary team at Headingley the following day – the first day of the Yorkshire v Gloucestershire game.
“I’m looking forward to coming back,” said the former fast bowler, now in charge as coach of his home state South Australia. “I’m going to try and reach out.
“One of the important things for me is to go up to Wetherby and pay my respects to our late, great friend Dave Callaghan. I didn’t get to his funeral and haven’t been back in Yorkshire since he passed away (March 2018).
“I’ve also got a little god daughter in Leeds from our neighbours. It will be nice to see her and their family.
“I’ll also try and catch up with a few of my cricket friends along the way.”
So, back to the Ashes, which sees Headingley host the third Test, starting on July 6.
As aforementioned, Gillespie is backing Pat Cummins and co to get the job done and retain the urn – in fact, win a series in England for the first time since 2001 when Gillespie claimed 19 wickets in a 4-1 win.
“Australia will take a lot of confidence out of the (World Test Championship final) game they’ve just won against India,” he said. “It was a pretty clinical display, and they will go into the Ashes in a good headspace.
“They will be organised, planned and well prepared.
“They know that England have been playing a different style of cricket for the last 12 months or so – very aggressive batting in particular. But it’s a different kettle of fish coming up against this Australian bowling line-up, who we’ve just seen bowl very well at the Oval.
“It will be very interesting to see.
“By all accounts, England are going to continue to go hard, and we’ve heard that McCullum and Stokes have requested more surfaces that suit strokeplay and aggression.
“But I’ve said this all along. I just wonder whether that plays into Australia’s hands a bit because that takes away from what is one of England’s big strengths.
“That is that they have got two of the greatest fast bowlers to have ever worn an England shirt, Anderson and Broad. That could potentially nullify their impact.
“I think Australia have a bit more air speed overall, particularly without Archer in there for England.
“Yes, Wood’s there, but I don’t know how many games he will play.
“They’ll look to get as many games out of Anderson and Broad, Robinson as well.
“This Ashes series is probably on record as the shortest one in history. All the games are really close together. That will be a challenge.
“I know county cricket has always been a lot of games in a short space of time, but we’re talking Test Cricket – the scrutiny. It’s a completely different game.
“I don’t think anyone expects Wood to play five games.
“The bowling fitness of Ben Stokes is going to almost dictate England’s selections. If he can give the team 8-10 overs a day, it takes a spell off the main quicks, which maybe the difference in them getting through a Test Match.
“Having that extra seam bowling option will be vital with five Tests in such a short space of time, and Cameron Green will also be vital in that regard for Australia.
“Leach out is a blow to England. But I suspect Australia would have gone hard at him, as they will do against Moeen Ali, who could be a bit rusty.”
England’s new style of play in Test Cricket has certainly entertained the masses recently. But how has it been received Down Under?
Gillespie said: “To be fair, I speak to a lot of our players at South Australia and others around the country, and a lot say that they really enjoy watching England play. So that’s a real pat on the back for them.
“And I love the mindset of entertaining the fans. Test Cricket is having its challenges and has to stay relevant and be entertaining. That’s what the England hierarchy are saying.
“I applaud that, but the feeling over here is, ‘Yes, it’s great to watch – it’s entertaining. But go on then, let’s see you do it against Starc, Cummins, Boland, Hazlewood and Lyon’.”
Gillespie took 65 wickets in 18 Ashes Tests, winning 13 of them. His best haul was 7-37 in the first innings at Headingley in 1997, a victory in which he took nine wickets overall. Whisper it quietly, he got Darren Gough twice in the match.
But what is his favourite Ashes moment?
“Personally, whenever you take wickets or contribute with the stick, they’re the ones which impact you,” he added.
“I got seven wickets at Headingley, a five-for at Lord’s and Perth as well.
“But my over-riding memory was winning the Ashes in 11 days in Australia in 2002/3. That was a huge moment. We played wonderful cricket.
“This might surprise a few people, but just playing all Ashes cricket was special – win or lose.
“In 2005 even though we were on the losing side and I bowled poorly and got dropped, it was still a fascinating series to be a part of. Forever more, we’ll be able to reflect on that.
“The memories may be tinged with disappointment, but there’s a lot of gratitude to say that I participated in that series.
“It’s the same with 2019 and Stokes at Headingley.
“As the Australian players involved in that get older, the losses will still hurt like hell but they will understand that the game of cricket was better for that game being played. You reflect and say, ‘That was cool to be a part of’.”
Tickets remain available for an evening with Jason Gillespie at Rawdon Cricket Club on Saturday June 24, starting at 7.30pm. They are £20 and can be purchased by contacting Jonathan Doidge ([email protected]).
PHOTOS: SWPix and Getty Images.