Friday, April 8, 2011

Clarke prepares for his first challenge

Bangladesh v Australia, 1st ODI, Mirpur

Clarke prepares for his first challenge

The Big Picture
These are strange times for Australia's cricket team. Last month, they were knocked out of the World Cup in the quarter-finals, the first time in 12 years they had failed to win the tournament. For the first time in nearly three decades, the captain has resigned, but intends to play on under the new leader. And for the first time in four years, they are about to have a winter that is truly an off-season; the next item on their schedule is a tour of Sri Lanka in August, so it's difficult to know how much they can really take from this three-game series in Bangladesh.
Michael Clarke
The most fascinating aspect of the tour from an Australian perspective is the prospect of seeing Michael Clarke take full control of the side. He has been a stand-in leader before but now this is truly, officially, his team, even if the old boss is hanging around. On the occasions when he has captained Australia, Clarke has been willing to take risks and think outside the square, and now he can begin to shape a side that works to his plans. Ricky Ponting will be there in the background if required, but don't expect Clarke to rush to Ponting for advice - he will be his own man. In any case, Shane Watson is the new vice-captain.
For Bangladesh, this is a chance to regain some pride after failing to reach the quarter-finals, despite playing all their World Cup pool matches at home. That was a major disappointment for the country, but they have won their two most recent home limited-overs series, against Zimbabwe and New Zealand late last year. Beating Australia in a series would be their finest one-day achievement, and the first step is to begin the series well on Saturday.
Form guide
(most recent first)
Bangladesh LWWLW
Australia LLWWW
Watch out for...
It's nine years since Ricky Ponting played an ODI for Australia under another captain. Not since Kim Hughes has an Australia captain played on after relinquishing the captaincy, but Ponting seems to have genuinely retained his passion for the game and believes he has something to offer the side in the future. His century in the World Cup quarter-final showed that he has not lost his ability to score runs, and he is expected to stay at No. 3.
As captain of Bangladesh, Shakib Al Hasan would have been devastated with the way his team finished the World Cup, with a 206-run loss to South Africa. It was such a disappointing display that he couldn't even identify any specific problem areas - everything was a weakness. It is his task to turn that around, and much of the responsibility will fall on his own shoulders, as one of the team's key men in both the batting and bowling departments.
Team news
Since the World Cup, Australia have lost Shaun Tait to one-day retirement, Jason Krejza, who has been dropped, and David Hussey, who is at home for the birth of his child. That means Xavier Doherty should come in to the line-up as the lead spinner, while there should also be a place for John Hastings, who sat on the bench throughout the World Cup but showed his talents by taking a hat-trick in the warm-up match on Thursday.
Australia (possible) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Brad Haddin (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Cameron White, 6 Michael Hussey, 7 Steve Smith, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 John Hastings, 10 Brett Lee, 11 Xavier Doherty.
Bangladesh have made a few changes from their World Cup squad as well, and they should be boosted by the inclusion of Mashrafe Mortaza, who missed the tournament due to a knee injury. Alok Kapali is also back, although it is unclear whether he will definitely play, while Junaid Siddique and Naeem Islam have been dropped from the side that lost to South Africa.
Bangladesh (possible) 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Alok Kapali, 4 Shahriar Nafees, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 6 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 7 Mahmudullah, 8 Mashrafe Mortaza, 9 Shafiul Islam, 10 Abdur Razzak, 11 Rubel Hossain.
Pitch and conditions
Expect a slow and low pitch with some turn. Bowlers who can attack the stumps should be rewarded. The forecast is for a sunny day and a high temperature of 32C.
Stats and trivia
  • Clarke has already captained Australia in 24 ODIs and has a strong record of 18 victories, giving him a 75% winning ratio
  • Brett Lee is set to play his 200th one-day international, and he will be the ninth Australian to reach that milestone
  • Excluding matches against Zimbabwe and the Associates, Bangladesh have played 63 ODIs at home, for nine wins. Four of those came in their whitewash against New Zealand last year
  • Even the umpires are looking to the future after the World Cup - the neutral official for this series is Johanes Cloete, a 39-year-old South African who will be embarking on his first major overseas appointment
"I think it is absolutely brilliant that Ricky still continues to play on. Having his experience around the group is very important for our development moving forward."
Shane Watson
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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