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Michael Clarke bats back team criticism

Australia enter Ashes contest as underdogs but captain Michael Clarke says squad have the hunger to defeat England.

Last Modified: 24 Apr 2013 13:19
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Test captain Michael Clarke was on the receiving end of questions not balls at press conference [GALLO/GETTY]

Michael Clarke faced a sharp one delivered by an Englishman and just couldn't let it go through to the keeper.

Clarke and selection chairman John Inverarity had just announced 35-year-old Brad Haddin's recall to the Test squad, as vice-captain, when they were asked on Wednesday if this was the weakest team Australia had assembled for an Ashes tour in decades.

"I'd like to answer that one," Clarke, laughing at the blunt assessment by an English reporter, told a news conference.

"Since I've taken over the captaincy of the Australian cricket team, I think I've heard that every tour.

"We know how important the series is and we know we let ourselves and the Australian public down by the way we performed in India"

Australia captain Michael Clarke

"We'll always pay our respects to the English team, they're a very strong team... but I think with this squad we have the talent, the experience and the youth to go over there and have success."

Clarke is a positive player and his lead-by-example qualities have been impeccable since replacing Ricky Ponting in one of Australia's toughest jobs after the Ashes series defeat on home soil in 2010-11. But it has reached the point where he's now the only consistent run-scorer in the Test batting lineup.

Australia went to South Africa in November 2011 with a weak team and, after being embarrassingly bundled out for 47 in a lopsided defeat at Cape Town, rallied to level the series with a win at Johannesburg against the world's top-ranked team.

After sweeping India 4-0 in Australia and winning away in the West Indies, Australia went within a couple of wickets of a series lead when they hosted South Africa last southern summer, but then were comprehensively beaten in the last Test at Perth and missed a chance to overtake the Proteas at No. 1.

That was Ponting's farewell Test, and Mike Hussey also announced his retirement soon after.

Double contest

The combined experience of Ponting and Hussey was glaringly missing in the disastrous 4-0 series loss in India last month that sparked torrents of criticism about Australia's lack of depth and the absence of an obvious deputy for Clarke, exacerbated when Shane Watson stood down from the position last week saying he wanted to focus on his batting and bowling.

"Every single player in this squad has a lot of hunger," Clarke said.

"We know how important the series is and we know we let ourselves and the Australian public down by the way we performed in India."

Bring on the Ashes. Australia and England will play 10 consecutive Tests, starting with a five-match series in England from July 10 and followed by a five-match series in Australia commencing at Brisbane in November.

Clarke had only been playing Test cricket for 10 months when he went into his first Ashes series in 2005 as part of a team that was considered a hot favourite in England. After winning the first Test, Australia lost that series. And after making amends with a 5-0 series sweep in 2006-07, the Aussies have lost back-to-back series.

They haven't won an away Ashes series since 2001.

The stakes are high, but this time England go into the first of two battles as favourites.

Squad: Michael Clarke (captain), Brad Haddin (vice-captain), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Chris Rogers, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja, Matthew Wade, James Faulkner, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Ryan Harris, Jackson Bird, Nathan Lyon.

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Source:
AP
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