Australia embark on Sri Lanka tour

With Michael Clarke at the helm for first Test since Ricky Ponting's retirement, Australia look to climb Test rankings.

    Clarke carries the hopes of a cricket-loving nation on his shoulders as he looks to rebuild side [GALLO/GETTY] 

    In the shadow of England's Test victories over India, Australia are working hard to rebuild a team that dominated the sport from 2004 to 2010. 

    India and England's rise to the top has been painful to watch for a nation so used to winning with bat and ball. Since Shane Warne's retirement little has gone right for Australia and they are no longer the sporting power they once were. 

    However, Australian captain Michael Clarke says his young team leave for their tour of Sri Lanka determined to work their way up the world test rankings. 

    Clarke was among the five players in the 15-man Test squad who left Australia on Thursday. The other 10 were already part of the Twenty20 or limited-overs international squads which left last month.

    Australia has slipped from No. 1 to No. 5 in the world Test rankings, lying one place below their opponents Sri Lanka.

    "I really hope we can turn things around straight away. It is going to take time for us to work our way back up the rankings," Clarke said at Sydney Airport.

    The Australians travel to Sri Lanka for three Tests, then have a series in South Africa before hosting New Zealand and India in Test series starting in December. The Test squad contains uncapped pacemen Trent Copeland and James Pattinson, spinner Nathan Lyon and batsman Shaun Marsh, all hoping to push for places in the 11.

    Dynamic duo

    Australia are still No. 1 in the ODI rankings and will play five limited-overs matches in Sri Lanka, along with two Twenty20 games.

    Clarke said he was optimistic the new spin duo of Lyons and Michael Beer will perform well in Sri Lankan conditions.

    "It's good to have two different spinners as a bowling partnership in tandem. They can really work well together," said Clarke, who is yet to meet Lyons.

    "He's got an opportunity to grab it with both hands and, by all reports, I'm pretty confident he'll do that, so he's certainly got a lot of talent," Clarke said.

             Ponting led Australia from 2004-2011 and is the nation's most successful captain [GETTY] 

    "Now it's about giving him a go and seeing how he handles playing cricket for Australia."

    Clarke said the inclusion of so many rookies was positive.

    "I love the fact we've got some new fresh faces that are excited and itching for their opportunity,'' he said.

    "But the facts are we have to have some success, we have to play good cricket, we have to improve from our recent results.

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

    Australia plays T20 matches on Saturday and Monday, before ODIs on August 10, 14, 16, 20 and 22.

    The first Test will begin at Galle from August 31 followed by matches at Kandy from September 12 and Colombo from September 20.

    Clarke will be in charge of the Test squad for the first time since replacing Ricky Ponting, who stood down as Australia captain after the World Cup quarterfinal loss to eventual champion India in March.

    The upcoming Tests against the world's best sides will give Michael Clarke the opportunity to prove Australia are not just a great team of the past. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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