Clarke urges others to follow Starc, Maxwell
On his return from a draining overnight ODI series against Pakistan in the UAE, Clarke pointed to Starc and Maxwell as players who had responded to his call for young players to grab their chance, and hinted that Starc in particular may be further rewarded for his success.
Clarke's next assignment for Australia will be the Test series against South Africa at home in November, and Starc has done his claims to a place in the first Test XI no harm by managing to swing the ball and take wickets in conditions and on pitches that did not assist him. Maxwell also rated a prominent mention from Clarke in assessing the standout performances from the tour - his place in Australia's limited overs plans now looks highly promising.
"I thought Mitchell Starc's bowling has certainly stood out for me," Clarke said. "The way [Maxwell] played in the whole series, getting his opportunity and making the most of it. That's something I've spoken about for a while now - about guys getting a chance.
"Everybody wants to play for Australia but it's actually making the most of that chance - grabbing hold of that opportunity with both hands and making it very clear to selectors that you want to be a part of this team. I think a few guys on this tour have certainly done that."
Starc's confidence has risen considerably since the start of last season, when he debuted for Australia in Tests against New Zealand but did not look quite ready for the task. A mid-summer meeting with Wasim Akram aided Starc's cause greatly, and he would contribute ably to two Tests against India and West Indies in the new year, before showing his continued development against Pakistan.
"I think it's confidence to be honest. He's been around this group for a while now, he feels a part of the group. He's bowled well for a long time," Clarke said. "It's just about Mitch continually trying to improve, working hard in the nets to get better, using his strengths as well as he can and tinker with your weaknesses.
"He bowled with good pace. He's such a tall guy and he swung the ball beautifully in conditions where there wasn't much there for the fast bowlers as well. [But] I don't want to take anything away from the other fast bowlers. I thought they did a great job, you look through the series, it wasn't one individual player who won us the series. It was the whole team and that's probably the most pleasing thing to come out of this UAE series for me, considering how we as a team played in England."
Australia's resilience in dealing with a talented opponent utilising quality spin bowling in unfamiliar conditions, high heat and in a disorienting time-slot gave Clarke plenty of optimism for the future. It also showed the benefits of assembling the squad for an exacting pre-season camp in Darwin, where goals were set, training patterns established and rapport built up.
"It's another example of international cricket. You travel to different places around the world, you play in a lot of different conditions and this was very different," Clarke said. "This was new for everybody. I think we can take a lot being able to get a series win in conditions we certainly weren't accustomed to.
"Apart from [David] Hussey and myself nobody else had played in the UAE - wickets that are so different to back in Australia - and hours that guys aren't used to playing cricket in. That's a really positive sign for the team, to be able to win in conditions so foreign to everybody."
Having retired from international Twenty20 duty, Clarke will now spend time around the New South Wales squad and lead the Blues in the first three Sheffield Shield matches of the new season before South Africa's arrival.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here