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Clarke wary of Champions League

Daniel Brettig

September 13, 2012

Comments: 25 | Text size: A | A

Doug Bollinger steams in, India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 4th day, October 4, 2010
Doug Bollinger fell afoul of the Champions League in 2010 © Getty Images
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As many of his international teammates settle into Sri Lanka ahead of the World Twenty20, Australia's Test captain Michael Clarke is making doubly sure the Champions League that follows it will impinge as little as possible on preparations for a series with top-ranked South Africa.

Not required for either the World T20 or the Champions League, Clarke will instead lead New South Wales for the early start of the domestic season, which has itself been pushed forward by the presence of the T20 club competition in October.

The timing of the event, and its demands on players, has long been a sore point among Test match representatives. This was never more evident than after Michael Hussey and Doug Bollinger had their preparations for a series in India hopelessly compromised by needing to remain in South Africa for the Champions League until only three days before the Tests began.

Then Ricky Ponting's vice-captain, Clarke said lessons had been learned. He is now working with the national team's coaching staff and the team performance manager Pat Howard to ensure the likes of Brad Haddin, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus, David Warner and Hussey can come back from the event ready and able to push South Africa for five days rather than 40 overs.

"I think we can certainly learn from that, that's for sure, and I think we are," Clarke said of 2010. "Pat Howard's been exceptional in regards to our planning, he's made no bones about prioritising Test cricket, he wants us to have success in Test cricket, he wants us to be the No. 1 Test team in the world. We've got to prepare well and the preparation starts as soon as the boys get back from the T20 World Cup.

"The advantage is that all countries are affected the same way, it's not just the Australian players, we play against South Africa in November and there's a lot of their players involved as well. It's fair for everybody. It's important that everybody who's there for Champions League plays well there, has some success, but in the back of their mind thinking about the Test series against South Africa.

"The young bowlers over there will be monitored, we'll have Ali de Winter over there working on their bowling workloads, and bowling through that period with a red ball. I wish the boys all the best over there, hopefully they come back full of confidence and ready to go for that first Test."

De Winter's presence as Australia's bowling coach will be a significant help to the preparations of the fast bowlers, and a major improvement on the problems of 2010. Back then, Bollinger was given a program to work on while still playing for Chennai, but the presence of de Winter in the country will go a long way towards ensuring such plans are rigorously followed this time.

The former coach Tim Nielsen has previously recalled the episode as an instance when Cricket Australia's board and management did not support the performance objectives of the team, a scenario that hastened Howard's appointment following the Argus review to ensure such objectives were not compromised.

"I understand CA's decision, but Doug Bollinger was playing four-over cricket right as the tour started, then broke down in the first Test," Nielsen said last year. "I've no doubt if [he was] fit and right and bowling full-time we'd have won that Test match in Mohali.

"I can't imagine an AFL team would let their bloke go and do something like that [before a big game]. They look after their players as best they can for what's important; they don't compromise. That was one thing in my career as a coach I was a little bit upset about - that we didn't get 100% support from CA, and our team was compromised by that."

Clarke is also grateful for the chance to spend time playing for NSW, in addition to leading them for the first time. His retirement from T20Is has afforded the odd window for rest and first-class cricket, granting Clarke a better chance of prospering when the South Africa Tests come around.

"It's an advantage for me to get back into some red ball cricket, that was a reason for me retiring from international T20 cricket a couple of years ago," Clarke said, "to allow me to work hard on my one-day game and my Test game, and there's no better preparation than to get back and play for NSW.

"I think it's great for first-class teams to have their international players back playing. I think the game needs it, I think the international players need to get back to play with their state or play for their grade club, I think it's really important for the game.

"I remember fondly having the chance to play with Steve Waugh when he captained Australia and what the feeling was like when he was around training. It gives you that little extra boost, I wanted to spend time in the middle with him, I wanted to score some runs with him, I wanted to show him I could play."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by MattyP1979 on (September 14, 2012, 20:21 GMT)

I remember when Aussies were made of sturner stuff. They all seem to break after throwing down a few. Some of the young guns look promising but I fear they will be thrown to the wolves too early (as Eng are known for). Bad times for Aus, they have a brilliant player/captain in Clarke and a few ageing stars but the next generation just don't cut it.

Posted by MattyP1979 on (September 14, 2012, 20:12 GMT)

WC 20/20 can always be a gamble, but Aus seem to be quite far down the list of favourites atm. I hope CA can blood some new good players as world cricket could do wth a competitive Aus. This could be a tough 2 years for them.

Posted by Meety on (September 14, 2012, 11:52 GMT)

@jmcilhinney on (September 14 2012, 06:58 AM GMT) - mate, most Ozzy fans are criticizing the Oz cricket Board (not the player) for prioritising the Chasmp League over Tests. @popcorn - sorry mate, at the time I too had the belief that Bolly was a mercenary that cost a game, it later transpired, that the Board one way or another forced him AND Hussey to play the Champ League. The Boards motivation - the good of Oz cricket? No, 25% share in the Champions League.

Posted by PrasPunter on (September 14, 2012, 10:14 GMT)

Wondering why CA is lining up with the likes of bcci and going off-track from our goal of becoming No1 in test cricket. Wake up CA !! They arent interested in test-cricket - all they would like to do is kill it and make money of the meaningless hit and giggle stuff. But our priorities lie elsewhere. Its time we realise it and do things accordingly.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (September 14, 2012, 6:58 GMT)

Given that Australia is one of the boards responsible for the CLT20, along with SA and India, I don't think that any Australian fan has a right to be criticising any Australian players for playing in it. Why should the players show any greater loyalty to Australian Test cricket then the board?

Posted by smudgeon on (September 14, 2012, 2:37 GMT)

Wow, really? Aren't the ball kicking/throwing games still going at this time of year? I really am curious to see how some of the fringe-bowlers develop this season. There were a few who faded a little last season (Peter George & Trent Copeland didn't have awful seasons, but perhaps not as good as their potential promised), but I think it really is an exciting time for Aussie bowlers - our cupboards are well stocked. Hopefully the competition drives the incumbents to good things, and if it doesn't? Well, the replacements will be ready to make the most of their opportunities because they'll be under the same pressure! Good luck in the CL, Australia, but I think it's going to be tough to get past WI, Pakistan, or India here.

Posted by RyanSmith on (September 14, 2012, 0:16 GMT)

For those who are saying that India were equally disadvantaged in the 1st test of the 2010/11 Border/Gavaskar Trophy, that is pure ignorance of the facts. For a start bowlers are a much higher risk factor of breaking down without proper preperation, which is what happened to Bollinger. If India had any bowlers that had to play in the Final for CSK or Warriors (which they didn't) then you may have a case. Dhoni is the only Indian who played in that game and also had to play in the first test. Zaheer and Harbajhan were in SA playing for MI, but they were knocked out of the tournament a full week prior to the final and so could return to India earlier to recover. But exactly who was effected more is irrelevant, surely it is not good for the game to be potentially putting any players from any team at risk because of extremely irresponsible scheduling.

Posted by CoorparooMaverick on (September 13, 2012, 23:08 GMT)

What is the point of the CL? its irrelevant in a year that has a T20WC. CA should pull the the Ozzie test squad players from the CL. Too much T20 and piggybacking 2 tournaments is good for none of the test players involved, should be left to the provincial players short of a dollar.

Posted by RandyOZ on (September 13, 2012, 22:58 GMT)

Bollinger is highly overrated. With 8 wickets in total against top ranked nations, his stats are flattering to say the least.

Posted by   on (September 13, 2012, 18:00 GMT)

This is not even a 'Champions' League, its half-mini IPL.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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