Michael Atherton has said that England squad for the 2021-22 is not the strongest but Australia have their own share of problems. The former England captain highlighted that Tim Paine's side has not played Test cricket after losing to a second-string Indian side at home in January this year.
England, on Sunday, announced their 17-man squad for the much-awaited series. While experineced Jos Buttler, Stuart Broad and James Anderson are travelling to Australia in November, the likes of Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Sam Curran will not feature in the five-Test series due to various reasons. Stokes continues to take break from cricket and focus on his mental health, whereas, Curran and Archer will take time to recover from their respective injuries.
Atherton said that England squad was not the strongest but Australia lack balance in their side and would rely heavily on the form of Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne.
"It's not the strongest squad England have taken to Australia - nor is it the weakest," Atherton wrote in his column for The Times.
"Australia might be so described as well, strong as they are in bowling but less so in batting.
"Any doubts over England's prospects are tempered to some extent by doubts in Australia's camp, where much rests on the form of Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, and the fitness of the main three fast bowlers: Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc."
Further, the cricketer-turned-commentator also questioned the "readiness" of Australian players in Test cricket, highlighting that the Tim Paine-led side last played in the format nine months ago, when they lost 1-2 to a second-string Indian side at home. Under-fire coach Justin Langer and opener David Warner's form will put added pressure on Australia, according to Atherton.
Notably, Langer's coaching style has come under scrutiny after opposition from players, and David Warner hasn't quite performed in the format following his recovery from groin injury.
"Quite what degree of readiness Australia's players will be in is anyone's guess, because they have played no Test cricket since being beaten at home by a second-string India team nine months ago," Atherton said.
"There have been rumblings about the coach, Justin Langer, since then and David Warner's place will come under scrutiny if he starts badly. Beyond the main bowlers, the threat recedes."
The first match of the Ashes 2021-22 will be played in Brisbane, from December 8.