Australian skipper Michael Clarke says his priority is winning the ODI tri series in Zimbabwe, not trialling players for the World Cup.
Michael Clarke isn’t interested in using Australia’s ODI tour of Zimbabwe to audition players for the World Cup, he just wants results.
“It’s not a token tour – it’s about winning,” the skipper said in Sydney on Wednesday before flying out for the one-day tri-series.
Australia are travelling with a 14-man squad for the matches against South Africa and Zimbabwe, minus key players in injured allrounder Shane Watson and father-to-be David Warner.
Their absence has provided fringe batsman Phillip Hughes fresh hope of embedding himself in the national team, with Mitch Marsh, Nathan Lyon, Ben Cutting and Kane Richardson also hoping to prove their worth in the ODI side.
“There’s a number of guys that have been given a chance – which is exciting,” Clarke said.
“It’s a good chance for them to grab their opportunity.
“I think we’re in for a tough series and I’m pretty sure these young guys will stand up.”
But the captain was adamant the tour wouldn’t be used simply to give them all match time and trial them.
“The selectors, with Darren Lehmann, will come up with what they feel is the best 11,” he said.
“But I’m certainly not there to give guys an opportunity – I’m there to win.”
Asked whether he believed such players saw it as an audition for the World Cup, to be hosted by Australia and New Zealand in February-March, Clarke said he didn’t think they were looking that far ahead.
“I think they’ll be seeing it as an opportunity to be part of our one-day team; to try and get their foot in the door, cement their spot and make it hard for the players that aren’t on this tour to get back into the team.
“That’s how I’d like them to see it.
“Unfortunately there’s only 11 spots and we’ve probably got 20 players, in my opinion, that are ready to be a part of that 11. So now it comes down to consistent performance.”
Despite being without their two leading one-day openers, Clarke said he still had “plenty of options” to fill those spots – including Hughes, who smashed out two double centuries for Australia A in recent weeks.
“Obviously Hughesy’s in a purple patch at the moment – I don’t think it’s possible to have a better pre-season,” he said.
“We’ve got Finchy (Aaron Finch) who batted beautifully yesterday (in a practice match against Queensland) and has opened the batting for us.
“I think (Brad) Haddin’s opened the batting a lot for us, and his numbers are very good as a one-day opener, so he certainly gives us an option there.
“We’ll work out what we think is the best line-up for the conditions and the opposition we’re playing.”
Clarke said everyone looked in “really good shape” after Tuesday’s hitout with the Bulls and was confident they would be ready for Monday’s opening game against Zimbabwe in Harare.