Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Australia captain Michael Clarke has revealed that the national team “were on the brink of breaking” during their tour of South Africa in March.
Even though Australia won the series 2-1 and dethroned the Proteas as the top Test team in the world, Clarke admitted that many of the players were close to reaching their breaking points after a hectic and draining 12 months.
During those 12 months, Australia played 17 Test matches against India, England and South Africa. This included the back-to-back Ashes series, where they lost 3-0 in England before bouncing back in the best possible way on home soil as they whitewashed England 5-0.
“A lot of individuals would have needed that break anyway, so if there wasn’t a break in the schedule I think guys would have got injured because we were on the brink of breaking in that last series in South Africa,” Clarke told cricket.com.au. “We were all pretty fatigued, mentally as well as physically.
“So the squad certainly needed this break, and it’s given us the chance to freshen up, get our fitness back together and make sure we’re ready for a big two years ahead. I think everybody is sick of training at this stage. We’ve done a lot of fitness, a lot of batting, bowling, fielding at practice and guys now want to start playing some games.”
But, the Australians have yet another hectic schedule ahead of them, which start off with an ODI tri-series against Zimbabwe and South Africa. After the tri-series, Australia will play a Test and limited overs series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates. This will be followed by an ODI series against South Africa at home, a Test series against India at home, an ODI tri-series on home soil, the 2015 World Cup, a tour of the West Indies and an Ashes series in England.
However, it doesn’t end there for the Baggy Greens as they will head to Bangladesh after the Ashes series before facing New Zealand, the West Indies and India at home. After this, they will tour New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka before yet another busy summer begins.
With the ODI tri-series set to begin on August 25, Australia head coach Darren Lehmann announced that he is confident his team will be up to scratch following a number of rigorous training sessions in Brisbane.
“It (did), for lots of reasons,” Lehmann told cricket.com.au when asked if Australia desperately needed a break after their tour of South Africa. “Personally, blokes can get away from the game, coaches can get away from the game for a little bit.
“Professionally, everyone was tired – coaches were tired, players were very tired and they did an amazing amount of work in 12 months so to get a break before we go on the road for two years was pretty important.
“Now the (challenge) is getting us back up to the skill level that we need to compete at international cricket because we’ve had the break and we’ll have to get that very quickly because we’ve got Zimbabwe and South Africa and then we’ve obviously got a big test in (the UAE).
“I think everyone is jumping out – they just want to play. From my point of view we’ve got to get them up-skilled quick enough to compete at international level and then keep them there for a long period of time which is going to be a challenge but everyone is fresh and that’s what you want to start with. So we’re going to be a bit rusty with the skills, but that’s okay.We’re gonna make mistakes, but that’s okay.
“What we need to do is build and build and build to become a better Test side, a better one-day side, a better Twenty20 side.”
However, with the World Cup hovering just over the horizon and the chance for his side to become the first Australian team to win an Ashes series in England since 2001, Clarke has called on his players to maintain their composure and focus on the task at hand.
“I think selectors and Darren Lehmann especially need to look a lot further ahead than players do,” Clarke said. “It’s really important that we, as a playing group, stay focused on what’s in front of us.
“I guess I’ve experienced throughout my career that as soon as you start looking too far ahead you start seeing things you might never get to. It’s about consistent performance, no matter who you’re playing in what conditions. You have to find a way to be performing, to stay in the team and to help the team have success.
“If you look at our next block of two years there’s a lot of cricket, and some really important cricket as well so that’s exciting for us. But I think that’s for others to focus on and work out what teams they’re thinking, what players they’re thinking for conditions all around the world over the next two years. For us, it’s about performing well.”