x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Michael Clarke calls for consistency ahead of Afghanistan game

Australia can be No 1 in one-day internationals again, says the captain ahead of warm-up game in Sharjah.

Michael Starc bats during Australia's nets practice session in Sharjah yesterday. Charles Verghese / AP Photo
Michael Starc bats during Australia's nets practice session in Sharjah yesterday. Charles Verghese / AP Photo

SHARJAH // Michael Clarke said he was confident that Australia can regain the top spot in the world one-day rankings after slipping to fourth for the first time in three years.

The four-time world champions begin their quest with the first-ever one-day match against Afghanistan in Sharjah tomorrow before three one-day matches and three Twenty20 internationals against Pakistan.

Tomorrow's match begins at 6pm at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

Clarke, 31, said he was optimistic that they can fight back.

"When we left England [in July this year] we were still the No 1-ranked team in the world but because of other teams playing, we've slipped back down to four," he said.

"But to me it's about playing really good consistent cricket all around the world and I know we'll get back to being No 1."

Clarke brushed off speculation that he will move up the batting order, saying he had not received any official indication.

"I have made it very clear since taking over the captaincy that I'll bat wherever is best suited for the team," he said. "In this series if me batting three is the right option, that's what I'll do."

Clarke agreed Afghanistan had more experience of the pitch in Sharjah and said he was relishing the prospect of playing against them.

"It's an opportunity for them to come out with nothing to lose and plenty to gain and I think it will be good cricket," Clarke said.

Clarke said once they finish tomorrow's game his team will think about Pakistan, who are currently ranked sixth in one-day cricket.

"No doubt Pakistan's on my mind but our focus as a team has been on Afghanistan. After Saturday's game we'll sit down then and look at the Pakistan side," he said.

"Pakistan also know the conditions well and these are pitches where, as the game goes on, there'll probably be a little bit more spin."

All one-day matches will start at 6pm to avoid the heat. "We don't really know what it's going to be like starting a match at six o'clock at night. We haven't done that before in one-day cricket. It's a lot different," Clarke said. "You have to ask me after the first match but it's going to be a big challenge for both the teams, also for Pakistan."

Meanwhile, the Afghanistan Cricket Board chief executive Hamid Shinwari has appealed to cricket's leading teams to offer greater support so their remarkable rise can continue.

Afghanistan, who just over four years ago were playing against Norway and Japan in a minor tournament in Jersey, have made rapid strides forward, qualifying for next month's ICC World Twenty20 Cup in Sri Lanka, their second successive appearance at the event.

But despite being granted one-day international status in 2009 when the team narrowly failed to qualify for the 50-overs World Cup in the Indian subcontinent, opportunities such as a one-off match against Australia in Sharjah on Saturday have been hard to come by.

"This is only our second match [against a full member] in three years, which is not fair," Shinwari told Reuters.

"Cricket is more than a game in Afghanistan. It brings hope to the country, we want to improve in the game and we have the capacity to compete with any nation. We're improving at a greater rate than some of the full members.

"I'm sure if they could support us in having such events, at least five, six or maybe eight one-day internationals in a year, then it would significantly contribute to the game's improvement."

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE