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January 11, 2014
Become the best in the world in all three forms - that's Australia's goal, as stated by the coach Darren Lehmann earlier this week. In no format are they closer to that aim than one-day cricket. They are No.3 in Tests and South Africa hold an enormous margin at the top; in Twenty20 Australia sit seventh. But it is not out of the question that by the end of this month, Australia might have completed one-third of their goal by reaching No.1 on the ODI rankings.
For that to happen, Australia would need either to beat England at least 4-1 and have New Zealand defeat India in the concurrent series, or complete a 5-0 clean sweep over England and have India win no more than three of their five games in New Zealand. On the other hand, England can jump ahead of Australia into second if they perform strongly in this series.
Australia will need to defy recent history, for each of the past four Ashes campaigns have been followed by a one-day series that has been won by the side that lost the Tests. That is perhaps not surprising; it must be difficult to get motivated for a bilateral one-day series when you've just won the urn.
But only five members of Australia's Ashes-winning XI will take the field in the opening one-day international in Melbourne on Sunday, and while captain Michael Clarke said it could be easy in such circumstances to slide into cruising mode, Australia's aim to be the best in the world should guard against complacency.
"They're two different teams. But for the guys who do play Test cricket, it's quite easy to take your foot off the pedal," Clarke said on Saturday. "I said before the last two Test matches that we as a Test team had a lot to play for because we were ranked fifth at the time and we want to get back to No.1. I say the same about this one-day unit. We know we are not the No.1 team in the world at this stage. That is our goal.
"If you want to be a part of this team, you cannot afford to take your foot off the pedal. We as a team have no complacency where you're sitting there expecting that because the result was five-nil in the Test series that the one-day result will be the same. We know England have a very good one-day team ... we currently sit second in the rankings and only just, England are one point behind us, so we've got to play our best to stay at No.2, let alone get to No.1."
To that end, Australia have decided that while their Test players can benefit from a break after the Ashes, they will not be rested in groups as they were last summer. Mitchell Johnson will miss the first game but will return for the second match in Brisbane, and the selectors will need to consider whether others such as Clarke, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin might also need to sit out to help them recover ahead of the upcoming South African tour.
"I feel good at the moment. That will be decided by the people well and truly above me," Clarke said of potentially having a rest himself. "If they think I should miss a game then I'll have that conversation with Boof [Lehmann] and the selectors. But right now I'm really keen to help this team win this one-day series.
"Winning the Test in three days gave everyone a couple of extra days off which is nice. But I missed the recent one-day series in India. I played in England and enjoyed the one-day series. It's going to be nice to be back out there and playing some one-day stuff."
The near full-strength side has meant there was no room in the squad for Phillip Hughes, a prolific one-day scorer over the past year, and Shaun Marsh has also been left out for the opening match, with David Warner and Aaron Finch to open the batting. The selectors also decided against rushing James Pattinson back in for the first game after his seven wickets in three BBL matches, his first games back since suffering a back injury during the Ashes in July.
"I don't know why they decided to not pick him in the first eleven," Clarke said of the selectors. "That's their call. But I think James certainly is realistic and understands that he's only been back bowling for a couple of weeks in regards to game practice. He's a wonderful talent. Everybody in Australia loves seeing him bowl well. He's looking fit and I'm sure he'll play a big part throughout this series."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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