Zimbabwe trip not token tour: Clarke
Posted on Aug 20 2014 | IANS
Sydney, Aug 20 : Australia cricket captain Michael Clarke has dismissed suggestions that the ODI series in Zimbabwe is a "token tour", claiming he will do everything to win.
Clarke's side left from here Wednesday for a triangular One-Day International (ODI) series against Zimbabwe and South Africa in Harare, reports Xinhua.
"It's not a token tour. It's about winning," Clarke said.
Australia's 14-man squad comprises a number of fresh faces and the tour offers them a great opportunity to stake their claim in the squad for next year's World Cup at home. Australia have not played in Zimbabwe since 2004 while they have only faced them twice since then in South Africa and India.
More than a quarter of Australia's touring party have less than five ODI caps to their name with Ben Cutting, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh and Kane Richardson all set to build on their fledgling international careers.
"There are a number of guys who have been given a chance, which is exciting. It's a good chance for them to grab their opportunity and be part of our one-day team, to try and get their foot in the door, cement their spot and make it hard for the players that aren't on this tour to get back into the team," Clarke said.
"Unfortunately, there are only 11 spots and we've probably got 20 players, in my opinion, who are ready to be part of that 11. So now it comes down to consistent performance."
Lyon is perhaps the squad's most intriguing inclusion with the 26-year-old chosen as the team's sole spinner for the tour. While Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith may be able to offer Lyon support, the offie will take on the weight of responsibility and could make a long-term claim on the position he has held at Test level.
Australia's scattergun approach to finding the team's No.1 spinner ahead of the World Cup has seen selectors range from 43-year-old Brad Hogg to 21-year-old James Muirhead. Now, Lyon will be given his first taste of ODI cricket in more than two years.
"Nathan has done very well in Tests. We want to give him another opportunity before we even start talking too much about the upcoming World Cup," Australia's chief of selectors Rod Marsh said.
Pacemen Richardson and Cutting have also been handed call-ups replacing Clint McKay. With just four ODI caps between them, Richardson and Cutting relied on some exceptional form with Australia A's side to earn their place on the tour.
From four matches, Richardson claimed 13 wickets at 11.30 in a recent List A tour against India A and South Africa A while Cutting took 12 wickets at 18.16. Clarke believes the pair must carry the form onto the international arena if they're to remain in the side.
Phil Hughes was a late addition to the travelling party, replacing the injured Shane Watson and ending his exile from the Australian scene. The 25-year-old was unfortunate not to be included in the initial squad after a scintillating series for Australia A. The left hander made 424 runs at 106 in four First-Class matches and notched 332 runs at 110.66 in four List A matches.
In doing so, Hughes also became the first ever Australian to hit a limited overs double century when he carted an unbeaten 202 from 151 deliveries against South Africa A in Darwin.
He'll now look to cement his spot at the top of the order in the absence of Dave Warner, who will miss the tour as his wife is expecting their first child, and Shaun Marsh, who is battling an ongoing elbow injury.
The series will get underway Aug 25 with Australia playing two matches each against Zimbabwe and South Africa before a potential final Sep 6.
Australia squad: Michael Clarke (Captain), George Bailey, Ben Cutting, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Shane Watson.