Some warm-up this!

England have not given themselves enough time for acclimatisation to Australian conditions as they set out to defend the Ashes.

After having seen the programme for England's bid to retain the Ashes in Australia this year, I thought that an Aussie spy must have infiltrated into the England Planning Committee. How else would they have accepted this crazy programme? Their warm-up plans were far too short and would not give the players their best chance to retain the Ashes.

Three weeks before the First Test is not enough time to acclimatise to Australian conditions, which are unlike any in the world. The batsmen had struggled to adapt to the extra bounce, even though they had played on two pitches, which were more like flat one-day wickets rather than the normal bouncy first class wickets.

In Canberra three of the top England batsmen were late on hooks. In Sydney their quicks bowled far too short and were easily handled by the New South Wales batsmen. The Englishmen must have short memories and forgotten that they won the 2005 Ashes clash by their fast bowlers swinging the deliveries. And bowling short retard swing.

However, England should be well served by the grounds for the first three Tests. With their attack obviously based on pace, they can expect more help from the wickets in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth than in the last two Tests in Melbourne and Sydney.

One of the worrying early impressions I have gained pertain to the technical flaws in their catching, with particular reference to wicket-keeper Geraint Jones. He has already put down a leg side sitter through poor body & hand positions. A problem, which has been uncorrected all his Test career.

Jones is being selected because he is a better batsman than fellow 'keeper Chris Read, but he must also improve his batting average considerably.

At present, Jones averages 25 with the bat in Test cricket and Reid only five runs less at 20. Hardly enough for Jones to gain selection over the better gloveman. If Jones is going to be favoured for his batting, he needs to average near 40 than 20. After all, by dropping a catch from just one of the opposition's specialist batsmen he will be giving away much more than the five runs that separates his average from that of Read.

It was wonderful to see international cricket back at Mumbai's premier cricket venue, the Brabourne Stadium, but I was disappointed to see that some of the boundaries were well in from the fence.

Unfortunately, in their desire to make the playing area uniform in the ODIs, the ICC has decided on 70-yard boundaries. This has made all grounds similar and removed their natural character.

One of the great aspects of Australian grounds was their varying shapes and sizes. Adelaide was long; 250 yards from end to end and narrow. Melbourne, massive all-round. Perth was big enough to allow two club matches to be played at the same time, while Sydney, not as big as the above two, was a perfect Oval shape.

Lord's is Lord's with its amazing slopes and the Oval incredibly wide square of the wicket. The Eden Gardens, Kolkata, too is a magnificent stadium and a huge playing area.

Unfortunately, all of these wonderful grounds have fallen prey to the desire to make ODIs more exciting by allowing batsmen to hit more fours and sixes.

The Adelaide Oval has been reduced by 20 to 30 yards at both ends, Melbourne by at least 20 yards in most areas and Perth, in some areas, has the boundary 40 yards away from the fence.

The desire to make all grounds the same 70 yards leaves me cold. More boundaries don't make the game more exciting, close finishes do. Too many boundaries to me are just as boring as too few.

Variety is the name of the game and if the ICC don't want this then let them have synthetic turf, so that pitches are also boringly the same.

Small boundaries also limit the bowling options, thus reducing the excitement of taking wickets.

One-day bowling today has a monotonous sameness and it appears that few teams are consistently trying to bowl the opposition out. It seems that most teams have forgotten that a majority of the matches are won by bowling the opposition out and not by just trying to reduce their scoring rate.

Too often today even mishits clear the fence with the commentators claiming that it was a huge hit. And this for shots that just clear the rope and land many, many yards inside the boundary fence.

The small boundaries have affected the spinners and they are drifting out of the game. The spinners' options have been reduced and very few these days try to tempt the batsmen with flight or loop.

The smaller grounds have also reduced the chances for great running outfield catches. Who can forget Steve Waugh's brilliant effort of sprinting 20 yards towards the sightboard in Melbourne to take a catch on one side of it and emerging on the other side with the ball clutched triumphantly in his hand!

The small boundaries have also reduced the sight of batsmen frantically running between the wickets for threes and fours and the brilliant long throwing and sprinting by the fieldsmen.

I would certainly enjoy this more than mishits going to the boundary and the boring sight of youngsters stationed outside the boundaries returning the ball to the fielders.