The Ashes 2013-14 November 1, 2013

Healy wants tough love for Ashes team

Australia's hopes of regaining the Ashes at home this summer will improve if the players are subjected to a more disciplined set-up, rigorous training and minimal leniency, according to Ian Healy. Referring to his own early days in a team finding its way under Allan Border and Bob Simpson, Healy wants team management to return to the days of old-fashioned hard grind to give the current crop the sense of reality that he feels pampered, modern-day sportsmen lack.

"We're treating them the same way we treated legends in their last few years," Healy said at the Mark Boucher tribute dinner in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening. "We've never gone back to the way things were 20 years ago. We used to work too hard and do too much training and we're letting these younger guys train the way legends used to."

Less rigid coaches, notably Gary Kirsten who followed the accountability style of leadership with both India and South Africa, allow the players to choose how many net sessions they need to have and how long they should be. Kirsten said that by treating cricketers like adults and allowing them to make their own decisions would invariably result in them opting for what is best for their own performance.

But Healy thinks that approach will only work once players are established enough on the international stage and not during a transition phase like one Australia are going through at the moment. Healy said he could see new coach Darren Lehmann starting to do away with some of those excessive freedoms but has advised him to become even more militant.

"We're treating our national side a bit like a club team too often," he said. Healy was particularly critical of allowing players time off during series or the luxury of missing certain fixtures to prepare for others. Australia have been careful to use their quick bowlers in rotation, especially to manage injury concerns and on Thursday announced Mitchell Johnson would return home from the India ODI series to prepare for the first Ashes Test.

If Healy had it his way, players would be available for the majority of games Australia play. "All this resting players and rotating players. In our day, if you wanted rest, you were told that was fine because there are heaps of people who want your job."

Those people are still out there and Healy believes despite the current challenges Australian cricket is healthy. "Our system is still good, we are not negligent in funding and we are producing enough cricketers," he said.

For that reason, he was bullish about Australia's chances in the upcoming Ashes series, although he knows they go in as underdogs. "We are capable of winning the Ashes but England will give themselves a big kick in the pants if they don't win," he said. At the very least Healy expects Australia will "play better than we have in the last two years," this summer.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent