x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Michael Clarke backing his young Australians against India's experience

Michael Clarke said his inexperienced Australia team will put up an improved performance against India in the four-Test series, the first of which begins on Boxing Day in Melbourne.

Michael Clarke, far right, has had mixed results with a young Australia squad, but is confident ahead of their Tests against India.
Michael Clarke, far right, has had mixed results with a young Australia squad, but is confident ahead of their Tests against India.

Michael Clarke believes his inexperienced Australia team will put up an improved performance against India in the four-Test series, the first of which begins on Boxing Day in Melbourne.

Tasked with leading his side out of the doldrums, the 30-year-old middle-order batsman has endured a difficult beginning since taking over from Ricky Ponting, who relinquished the captaincy with the team at their lowest ebb in a quarter of a century.

Inheriting a team demoralised after suffering a humiliating defeat to England in the Ashes on home soil, the right-hander's nine months as captain has seen Australia mix rousing Test wins with losses farcical in their ineptitude.

He led Australia to a 1-0 series victory in Sri Lanka before splitting a series 1-1 away to South Africa and home to New Zealand.

Australia's loss in the second Test against New Zealand in Hobart - their first defeat in 26 years on home soil against their trans-Tasman rivals - left a particularly sour taste and declarations of "crisis" in local newspapers.

Against India, the second-ranked Test team, and their stable of ageing champion batsmen, Clarke faces his biggest test as captain while under pressure to produce a major victory in front of a still-sceptical public.

"All of us feel we're playing inconsistent cricket at the moment. We go one step forward and two steps backwards," Clarke wrote in his newspaper column.

"I'm confident we can make amends against India. I think it's going to be a really good contest between youth and enthusiasm versus some old wise heads in the Indian team."

Shaun Marsh, Clarke's fellow Australia batsman who was primed to play a Twenty20 match late last night to prove his fitness, said he is confident he would be ready to go for the first Test.

The 28-year-old left-hander, who has been struggling with a lower-back injury, was named in Australia's squad for the Boxing Day Test, with Dan Christian, the uncapped all-rounder, included as back-up.

After taking part in a three-day training camp for Australia's batsmen, Marsh said his back had improved considerably and should allow him to play his first Test on home soil on Monday.

"I'm hitting the ball well, I've had a really good two or three days, and I feel that I haven't lost too much of my touch since South Africa," he said on Thursday.