Clarke in no hurry to take over captaincy
Michael Clarke believes talk of splitting the Australian captaincy is premature and Ricky Ponting remains the best man to take the team forward from their Ashes defeat. Ponting landed in Sydney after his second consecutive series loss in England and indicated he would be open to the idea of playing in the side without leading it, although he has no plans to step down.
Clarke, who is in charge as Ponting rests for the next two weeks, would not consider the idea as a realistic option. "No," he said firmly when asked whether the captaincy should be split. As the Test vice-captain, Clarke would be next in line, but he is not in a hurry for promotion.
"At this stage, we only have one leader and, in my opinion, 'Punter' is my captain," Clarke said. "I've only had one captain in my career. Ricky is my leader."
Ponting is back in Australia on a two-week break and has come under fire for his role in the 2-1 result. "It's very unfair for one guy to be criticised," Clarke said. "Yes, he's our captain, he's our leader, but one of Punter's greatest strengths is he never complains about that. The reality is the whole team lost the series. Every player in the squad takes some sort of responsibility. It's not one guy's fault."
The pain of Sunday's defeat lingers for Clarke and his Test team-mates, but they have their first chance to start again with Friday's one-day game against Scotland in Edinburgh. An influx of reinforcements has arrived to warm-up for the two Twenty20s and the seven one-day games against England.
"The feeling is looking forward to moving on," Clarke said. "No doubt the Ashes loss will stay in the guys' minds for a long time, the ones involved."
Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, joined the team on Wednesday and will monitor the progress of the newer recruits as he starts to look ahead to the 2011 World Cup. Australia will field a new wicketkeeper in Tim Paine over the next month, with Brad Haddin undergoing surgery on his injured left ring finger. Dirk Nannes, David Warner and Adam Voges, who are picked in the Twenty20 outfit, will also be hoping to impress.
Another player wanting to catch Hilditch's eye is Brett Lee, who will appear in his first international match since the World Twenty20 after suffering an untimely side injury in July. Lee was not required for the final two games of the Ashes series as he regained fitness and will be desperate to show he is still a force. It won't be much fun for the hosts if he gets it right.
"Brett will be keen as mustard," Clarke said. "He's disappointed not to have taken part in the Test series, but has contributed a lot throughout the series. He's itching to go."
Gavin Hamilton, the Scotland captain, has played Australia before but won't be briefing his batsmen on what to do with Lee. "We've watched these guys on telly, we know exactly what they can do," he said. "We're not going to build them up. The last thing our batsmen need is to sit around and watch Brett Lee bowl at x miles an hour."
They say there is no plan to remind the Australians of their horror week in south London, although Hamilton won't stop his younger players if they get a bit chirpy. One good thing for Scotland is the tourists' ranking has dropped to three on the one-day table, bringing them closer towards the unranked hosts.
"It's one way of looking at it, but is there ever a good time to come across them?" Hamilton said. "It's been a tough week for those guys, but looking from the outside, I have no doubts they will come back hard."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo