If there were any lingering doubts over the tactics Australia plan on using for the forthcoming Ashes series, Michael Clarke ended them on Tuesday.
Stood in front of the gathered media to discuss his own team selection for the first Ashes Test, Clarke decided to reveal that he already knew the England lineup, claiming Cook “gave” him the inside track.
Mind games and psychological wars are clearly top of Australia’s agenda this winter, Melinda Farrell of Cricket Australia providing the quotes:
I saw Alastair Cook yesterday at a Remembrance Day ceremony in Sydney and fortunately enough he gave me their team as well for the first Test match so I know he hasn’t announced it yet but I thought this was a good opportunity for me to announce it.
Clarke then rattled through the names, stating the following in the video that accompanied Farrell’s article:
The team we’ll be playing against in Brisbane in the first Test will be (Michael) Carberry opening the batting with Cook, (Jonathan) Trott at three, (Kevin) Pietersen at four, (Ian) Bell at five, (Joe) Root at six, (Matt) Prior at seven.
(Stuart) Broad at eight, (Graeme) Swann nine, (James) Anderson at 10 and (Chris) Tremlett 11. He doesn’t exactly know that yet but I know that’s the 11.
England are yet to prove Clarke right in his bold claim, but Tuesday provides more proof that the under-fire Aussies feel they need every bit of help possible if they are to regain the Ashes.
They were handsomely beaten 3-0 during the summer series and are expected to get turned over on home soil, per Oddschecker.
Legendary bowler Shane Warne recently attempted to aid the team by putting the boot into Cook’s captaincy, labelling him “boring” and “negative” according to Lawrence Booth of the Daily Mail.
Cook is undoubtedly a cautious captain, but he has overseen some of greatest rear-guard efforts of recent years to ensure England attain draws from likely defeats—the March tie with New Zealand a modern example.
Clarke’s attempt to jump the gun by naming England’s team gives the impression Australia are calling the shots. It puts the tourists on the back foot, maybe even intimidates them, and gives them the dilemma of whether to change their planned lineup in order to undermine Clarke.
Jose Mourinho of Chelsea adopted similar tactics to unsettle Barcelona in 2005, revealing his own team before naming the Catalans’ starting XI as reported by Sam Wallace of the Independent.
In decades past, Australia were so strong that they merely had to focus on on-field matters. The likes of Glenn McGrath and Warne tormented England batsmen, and the tourists could probably have named an extra couple of players and still lost.
Now, though, Clarke is facing desperation. He cannot afford to lose two Ashes series in the space of six months. His captaincy is on the line, and Tuesday’s media stunt proved it.
Australia squad for first Ashes Test (per Sky Sports): MJ Clarke (Captain), BJ Haddin, GJ Bailey, JP Faulkner, RJ Harris, MG Johnson, NM Lyon, CJL Rogers, PM Siddle, SPD Smith, DA Warner, SR Watson.