Clarke's optimism undimmed by tough tours

Ever the optimist, Australia's new captain Michael Clarke has refused to concede his team may be facing some painful days ahead as he departed for a tour of Sri Lanka, which will be followed by series against South Africa and India.

Updated: August 04, 2011 12:10 IST
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Ever the optimist, Australia's new captain Michael Clarke has refused to concede his team may be facing some painful days ahead as he departed for a tour of Sri Lanka, which will be followed by series against South Africa and India.

Australia's Test squad featured a handful of names that were a surprise even to Clarke - he is still to meet the offspin bowler Nathan Lyon - but he reasoned this newness would help foster an attitude of enthusiasm and keenness to work hard in Sri Lanka and beyond.

"I'd like to say no, to be honest. I really hope we can turn things around straight away," Clarke said at Sydney airport when asked if short-term pain should be expected.

"I think it is going to take time for us to work our way back up the rankings, but I'm confident with the talent we have, not only in our squads but around domestic cricket, if we keep the same attitude we've had over the last couple of months with our training and our dedication, if we continue on this road I can see us having some success.

"We're certainly not blinded [to] the fact we've got two of the best teams in the world in their own conditions coming up with Sri Lanka and South Africa, so it's going to be a tough start for us, but it's a good test to see where we're at. If we can have some success against both these teams, playing away from home, I think that'll give us some real confidence for the summer against India."

Lyon was not part of the Australian team training camps in Brisbane that Clarke enthused over, and will meet many of his new team-mates for the first time when he arrives in Colombo later in August. Clarke, however, did not hesitate to suggest that he and the left-arm spinner Michael Beer would be used in tandem on pitches likely to take plenty of turn.

"I think we have a good combination, a left-arm orthodox and a right arm finger spinner, which is good to have two different spinners, as a bowling partnership in tandem I think that can really work well together," Clarke said. "I haven't seen much of Nathan Lyon, he's had a great tour to Zimbabwe with the Australia A team and I've heard some great reports of his bowling over there, so he gets an opportunity to come to Sri Lanka and bowl in what are generally pretty good spinning conditions.

"It's an opportunity, and that's generally how it works, if you don't perform how you'd like as a team, new guys come in and get a chance, and this is what's happened in Nathan's case. He's got an opportunity to grab it with both hands and from all reports I'm pretty confident he'll do that. He's certainly got a lot of talent, now it's about giving him a go and seeing how he handles playing cricket for Australia.

"I'm really confident with the squad we have. I love the fact we've got some new fresh faces that are going to be excited and itching for their opportunity, that's a great thing to have around the group, but the facts are we have to have some success. We have to play good cricket and we have to improve from our recent results in the last Australian summer.

"We need to get better, we know that as players and I can guarantee we're working as hard as ever, as hard as I've ever worked in my career, so hopefully we can turn that around sooner rather than later."

The Don Argus-led review into the performance of the national team is expected to table its findings at Cricket Australia's next board meeting on August 18-19. This is towards the end of the limited-overs series in Sri Lanka and before the Tests, but Clarke was not perturbed by the prospect of recommendations being made public in the middle of a tour.

"It doesn't really bother me to be honest, we knew the review was going to take place," he said. "Whenever the results come from that, that's an opportunity for the players, CA and the ACA [Australian Cricketers Association] to have a look at it and listen to what the experts or the guys have to say and try to implement them. We know what's in front of us and what we have to focus on as players, the rest will take care of itself."

Clarke also dispelled any concerns about his sometimes tender back, which made him retire hurt during a practice match in Brisbane last month. It had previously flared at the outset of the Ashes series.

"It's going really well, it's been again the same as the last 15 years, plenty of physio, plenty of maintenance," said Clarke. "I feel pretty fit and strong at the moment, so I'm actually looking forward to getting out onto the park, I'm sick of training and I'm keen to start playing again."

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