Michael Clarke eager for batting help
Australia's captain and best batsman Michael Clarke has endorsed the team performance manager Pat Howard's instigation of a forum to address the nation's batting ills in Sydney next month, though he admitted to being totally unaware of plans for the event.
Highly unlikely to make the ODI tour of India that precedes the home Ashes series due to his chronic back troubles, Clarke may be in Sydney at the time of the forum, which Howard has said will be a key event for the new Centre of Excellence high performance batting coach Graeme Hick.
Initially reacting with surprise about the idea and saying he knew "nothing about it", Clarke responded positively once informed of the search for answers to the deterioration of Australian batting in recent years, something exposed mercilessly on the tours of India and England this year.
"I have a lot of thoughts about batting but I'm right in the midst of it as well," Clarke said. "I need to make sure I'm scoring more runs. I look forward to hearing what the other experts have to say and hopefully have some advice that can help us.
"We've got quite a good mix of youth and experience with our batting group and I think we continue to learn daily, but we're certainly open to anybody who can provide us with some feedback that's going to help us get better. What you try to do every day is to become a better player, so if Pat's organised a forum for some past players who've had a lot of success to come and help us that'll be great for the group."
As for his fragile back, Clarke said he had been juggling Cricket Australia sponsorship commitments with multiple daily treatment sessions to give him the best chance of making the plane to India. Though Clarke remains adamant that he can be fit in time, CA medical staff will be hesitant to send him to the subcontinent if it is likely to set back his Ashes preparations.
"It's getting there slowly, but how slowly, I won't know," Clarke said. "I'll probably have until the end of this week or early next week to see how I pull up, having treatment two or three times a day at the moment to give myself the best chance of being right for the tour.
"We're not planning on having scans right now, we're going to push me as far as I can go and see how I pull up, and if I pull up fine then great I'm on the plane. If I don't then I might have to have scans. But that's dictated by the experts who know a lot more about the problem I have than myself."
Clarke was speaking at the New South Wales season launch, where his Test vice-captain Brad Haddin was named as the Blues' captain for 2013-14. The new chief executive Andrew Jones and the new coach Trevor Bayliss were also acknowledged at the start of the domestic season.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here