MICHAEL Clarke says Australia’s team for next week’s first Ashes Test has almost picked itself.
“I believe if they are going to pick 12 players I think 11 of them are no brainers, we are looking at probably one selection, one spot to work out what our first 11, first 12 is going to be for Test number one at the Gabba,” he said.
Selectors will name a squad in Brisbane tomorrow for the serious opening Test which starts on November 21 with one round of Sheffield Shield matches to play.
The captain believes there may be only one place up for debate and while he didn’t go far to say it was a contest between the front-runner George Bailey and, perhaps, Alex Doolan or James Faulkner, it is clear that who bats at No6 is the only real issue ahead of the game.
Shane Watson will play as a batsman which may see the selectors think about an all rounder (Faulkner) down the order, but it seems unlikely.
The decision to rest Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and Clarke from this round of shield games indicates they will be named. Mitchell Johnson apparently has not done enough to prove himself, but is expected to be the third seamer with Nathan Lyon bowling spin.
England, however, have some concerns with news that Matthew Prior has had to withdraw from this week’s practice match against an Australian Invitiational XI at the SCG with a calf strain.
The visitors are confident he will be ready for Brisbane. Kevin Pietersen has been cleared of serious injury and is available to play the last tour game.
The all-rounder had a cortisone injection on a chronic knee injury, stopping in Melbourne yesterday for the treatment, then rejoining the team in Sydney.
England’s preparation was disrupted with much of the practice game in Hobart lost to bad weather and were dismayed to find themselves having to train indoors yesterday because of bad weather in Sydney.
Clarke was upbeat today at the launch of his Ashes Diary from the recent series loss in Britain. He said the side’s mindset and stability in contrast to the disarray they found themselves before the last series.
Mickey Arthur was sacked on the eve of that contest, Ashton Agar and Steve Smith were brought in from outside the squad and selectors changed the team for every Test.
“I think theres no doubt there’s a lot more stability in our teams whether that be the one day team the Twenty 20 team or the Test team, but I say that not being a selector so maybe I better wait until the teams announced tomorrow and hope my names read out,” Clarke said.
“I look back and the majority of the places hav picked themselves, the exciting thing about where we sit – whether it be batters or bowlers – individual players have stood up and performed.
“Whether it be in the one day format over in India, the Ryobi Cup and now the Sheffield Shield guys have really picked themselves which is an impressive thing for our team.
“It’s what Darren Lehmann and myself asked the guys to do: if you are going back to state cricket or in the one day team make sure you are either taking wickets or scoring runs to be in the selectors minds and I think the selectors are in for a tough job today selecting the 11 or 12 or 13 because guys have been performing so well which is a good dilemma to have.”
Clarke heartily endorsed David Warner going into the series.
“Davey is going great, he’s as fit and as strong as I’ve seen him, he’s in a great spot on and off the field, what more can he do?” he said.
“He’s scored four hundreds in a month, you cant push any harder for selection as a batsman, again I don’t know what the Test XI is but I think Davey has done everything in his power to be at the front of the selectors mind and we find out tomorrow if he is going to get another opportunity and if he does I am confident he is going to have a great summer.”
LIKELY TEST XI FOR BRISBANE: Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (c), Steve Smith, George Bailey, Brad Haddin (vc), Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon