A Test series against India, a World Cup on home soil and a much-anticipated Ashes campaign will put Australia’s cricketers under heavy scrutiny over the next year, but the team need to make themselves oblivious to the hype, according to captain Michael Clarke.
“Obviously, this is the start of a huge period in all our cricketing lives,” Clarke wrote in a column for News Ltd on Sunday, as Australia kick off their United Arab Emirates tour against Pakistan. “The trick for us will be removing as much of the hype and emotion as we can.
“I’ve found in the past that when I get swept up in the build-up to a big event, the ultimate prize has seemed far away and unattainable. We made it clear to the guys before last summer that this wasn’t about ‘the Ashes’ and all the hype and history that goes with that,” Clarke added of Australia’s 5-0 whitewash of England.
“It was about playing eleven English cricketers in five Tests on our own pitches. The public and the media will create the build-up. I love that. But I feel that our job as players is to cut through that emotion, do our jobs and, with any luck, make Australia proud.”
Australia’s Twenty20 side play Pakistan in a one-off match later on Sunday before a series of One-day matches precedes two Tests in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Clarke, who gave up Twenty20 cricket three years ago, has been ruled out of the one-day matches with a hamstring problem and is battling to be fit for the first Test on October 22.
Australia’s top batsman and one of the sharpest captains in the game, the 33-year-old decided to overhaul his fitness regime after straining his hamstring before a One-day tournament in Zimbabwe and arrived in the Middle East six days before his Test team mates to keep working on his rehabilitation.
Long plagued by back problems, Clarke had injections to “free it up” before the flight and spent much of the journey walking up and down the plane, he said. His “run volume and speed” was still only 60-70 percent and he stopped short of declaring himself a likely starter for the first Test.
“As I have done my whole career I will do whatever it takes to give myself the best possible opportunity of playing,” he wrote. “I will leave nothing to chance but, equally, I will always put the team first.”
After beating South Africa away in a hard-fought series earlier this year, Australia briefly snatched the top Test ranking from the Proteas who duly took it back when they sealed a Test series win away to Sri Lanka in July.
Australia can recapture top spot with a 2-0 win over Pakistan, according to the International Cricket Council, the sport’s global governing body. “So we’re not looking at these two Tests against Pakistan in Dubai and Abu Dhabi as playing second fiddle to more important series,” said Clarke. “We’re looking at it in its own right and the next step on the path to achieving our goal of returning to the top of Test and One-day cricket.”