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April 8, 2011
Should Australia's new captain Michael Clarke encounter trouble in the field against Bangladesh at the Shere Bangla Stadium on Saturday, he will have no qualms about summoning Ricky Ponting from his fielding position for advice.
The brief limited-overs tour of Bangladesh provides the chance for Clarke and Ponting to set the ground rules for a most uncommon relationship in recent Australian cricket history - that of the former and current captains working alongside one another. Ponting has said he will be happy to "sit in my corner" and speak when spoken to, but Clarke said there would be no deliberate distance between the two.
"Ricky's advice has always been very helpful to me, whether that be as his deputy or now as the captain," Clarke said. "I've said openly to Ricky that his experience and knowledge of the game is something we [the team] will continue to need, especially me as an inexperienced captain. I've been fortunate enough to captain Australia in a few one dayers and Twenty20s, and one Test match, but his knowledge is going to be crucial to the team going forward.
"Our relationship has always been very strong on and off the field, and I'm certain that won't change. It was good to see him make some runs, he looks in really good nick, after scoring that hundred against India in the recent World Cup. I'm confident he'll come out tomorrow and score some more runs for us."
Whatever his words of support for Ponting, it's clear Clarke would like to kick start the process of lifting a team that slipped up badly towards the end of his predecessor's reign. "The one thing I'm trying to bring to this team is for us to be a bit more consistent with our play," he said. "Over the last couple of years we've played some really good cricket, but in patches.
Clarke is looking forward to the added responsibility. "There's obviously added pressure as the captain but I look forward to that. We have a very good squad with a lot of talent, and we can be very successful going forward. Hopefully we can start the tour well by winning."
A lack of centuries at the World Cup - Ponting's rousing effort in their quarter-final loss to India was their only ton of the tournament - and a decline in fielding standards, said Clarke, are among his chief concerns.
"When Australian one-day teams have had success, somebody in the top four has gone on to make a big score," he said. "We only scored one century through the World Cup, so we'll be focussing on someone from the top order going on to make a big score in all three games [against Bangladesh].
"Discipline is still the key with the ball - to hit the right areas with the new ball, to change the pace, to use the bouncer, and the yorker at the death are areas we're working on as a bowling unit. And the focus is also on improving our standards in the field. I think our fielding has been pretty inconsistent over the last 12 to 18 months and it's important now to continue working hard on that part of our game."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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