England captain Alastair Cook believes winning this summer’s Ashes series would be his “best achievement”.
Cook has endured some torrid days since leading England to a 3-0 series win at home to Australia in his first Ashes as captain in 2013.
In the return contest that followed soon afterwards in Australia, England were whitewashed 5-0.
Andy Flower stepped down as England coach following the team’s return and star batsman Kevin Pietersen was sent into an ongoing international exile.
England then lost a two-Test series at home to Sri Lanka, with the opening batsman contemplating resigning as captain after the tourists clinched victory at Headingley.
As if all that were not enough, Cook was stripped of England’s one-day captaincy in December, just months before this year’s World Cup where the team suffered an embarrassing first-round exit in his absence.
Meanwhile, the normally reliable Cook, 30, endured a prolonged slump with the bat before scoring his first Test hundred in nearly two years against the West Indies in May.
“It’s going to be a highly competitive series and we will go in as underdogs because they are the best side in the world,” said Cook. “But in our home conditions and with what has happened over the last five or six weeks, we have a really good chance,” he added, with England having recently drawn a two-Test series with New Zealand before defeating the Black Caps 3-2 in the ensuing one-dayers.
England’s 14-man Ashes squad was set to leave for Spain on Saturday for a four-day clinic-cum-bonding session designed so their new Australian coach Trevor Bayliss can get to know the players ahead of the first Test in Cardiff starting on July 8.
“We can’t pretend meeting the coach for the first time a week before the Ashes is ideal,” said Cook. “But I think it’s really exciting to have a guy totally from the outside and with a totally different set of eyes looking at us.”