LONDON - Geoff Boycott has backed the new-look Australian team to retain the Ashes in England this summer.
The batting legend believes the knock-on effects of a turbulent year off the field and the shortcomings of Andrew Strauss as a captain mean the best England can hope for is to draw the series.
"England are not in great shape," Boycott said in an interview with the BBC's Inside Sport programme. "Can they win the Ashes? No, I think they will draw if anything, and the Australians will retain them."
The 68-year-old added: "There was the fiasco over Kevin Pietersen, the fiasco over Allen Stanford and his millions, they've tried three or four guys as captain.
"Now they've got Andrew Strauss who is quite a nice lad - he will do a decent job - but I'm not convinced he is a natural captain.
"It's a gift, to look after 10 other people and also to still look after your own game and play well, and at the same time be thinking two steps ahead of the game.
"When you're captain you can't just wait for things to happen. The great captains are thinking ahead."
Reflecting on the vexed number three slot, Boycott said: "If you look at the number three position, we have tried Ian Bell and Owais Shah, they're still talking about bringing Michael Vaughan back, and now they are trying Ravi Bopara. That is just one position.
"I don't feel we're getting the best out of what we've got. Never mind shooting themselves in the foot, England have shot themselves in the head this winter."
England begin their build-up to the Ashes with the first of two Tests against the West Indies from today at Lord's. The first Test against Australia is at Cardiff on July 8. - Sapa-AFP