Ashes 2015 June 21, 2015

Clarke denies ordering Warner to sledge

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'We respect there's a line you can't cross' - Clarke

Australia's captain Michael Clarke has emphatically denied ever instructing David Warner to sledge opponents, and stated that the coach Darren Lehmann has never done so either.

Clarke was responding to Warner's words in an interview with ESPNcricinfo on the recent Australian tour of the Caribbean, where Warner indicated a desire to pull back from being the central on-field "instigator" of confrontations with opposing players. Much of Australia's recent success has been attributed to using a snarling, unsociable style to unsettle their competitors.

Warner had said that "in the past I've been someone who's been told to go out there and do this and do that", but Clarke wanted to make it clear he had never instructed players to sledge. Instead, he said he advocated a team environment where players were free to choose their own path, whether it be loud or quiet.

"That was the last article I've read actually. I probably won't read too much while I'm in the UK. It was quite an interesting read to be honest," Clarke said at the official opening press conference of Australia's Ashes tour. "I didn't hear what Davey said, but as captain of Davey I can guarantee I have certainly never asked him to go and sledge somebody, and I think I can speak for the coach as well, that he certainly has never done that.

"The environment I try to create around this group is I want players to try to play the way they feel they play their best cricket. So for me, being sledged or sledging somebody else has never really impacted me. It's never really affected me if I've copped it and it's never really helped me if I've opened my big mouth. If that's how I play my best cricket that's what I want to do, if someone like Shane Warne, Matthew Hayden or Steve Waugh feel they get benefit out of talking to a batter when they're fielding, or Warney when he's bowling, that's for them as well."

Warner's intention to change his methods on the field and off it was made plain in the West Indies, and by the end of the tour he had gotten around to talking with team-mates about it also. Clarke said that if Warner wanted to change his approach as his best chance of maintaining the blistering form of the past two years, the captain would be fully supporting of his opening batsman.

"Davey's his own man, he's a 28-year-old grown man, he'll make his own choices - I want to see him perform as good as he possibly can," Clarke said. "He's a big part of this team, he's in tremendous form, he's batted beautifully in all formats of the game over the last 12 months, and we need him to be successful here. If he feels like he has said a lot through his career and he wants to say less, if that helps his game, I'm all for it."

Speaking more generally about the spirit in which he expected the Ashes series to be played, Clarke admitted both sides would probably "head-butt" the line of appropriate behaviour, but would do their best not to cross it outright. "I think that's how we play our best," he said. "I think it's a big part of the Australian way, but I think you also need to keep in mind there's a line and not overstep that.

"As captain I'll make sure I lead the way on that front and I'm sure the boys will certainly follow. I probably say this every series but we respect there's a line you can't cross. Both teams might head-butt that line, but I'm confident we won't overstep the mark."

In a day-long training session at the Merchant Taylors' School north of London, the sight of Chris Rogers striking the ball crisply after recovering from the concussion that kept him out of the West Indies series was a significant positive for the tourists. Rogers regained much of his old poise with a fluent 70 in an invitational match on the Isle of Wight, alongside Ryan Harris, Mitchell Marsh and Peter Nevill.

"I think mentally as much as anything, for him to have the confidence to walk back out on that field and play with freedom," Clarke said of Rogers. "I watched him bat today, he looked really good. Chris is a really experienced player, he's had a lot of success in the UK and he's going to play a big part throughout this series."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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