Ashes 2013-14: Green Sydney wicket could force changes for Michael Clarke as the Australia captain targets whitewash
Clarke admits that he doesn't know his own side just yet, let alone England's after SCG pitch is left with a lot of grass on the strip ahead of final Ashes Test
Thursday 02 January 2014
Australia captain Michael Clarke is prepared to put pragmatism before romance in order to inflict a 5-0 whitewash on England.
Clarke acknowledges the temptation to try to field an unchanged, winning team throughout the Ashes series - set to conclude in Sydney.
But he knows too that Australia's selectors will not do so without first assuring themselves those same 11 players who proved too good for England in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne are the same ones best suited to prevailing conditions at the SCG.
Clarke is not about to overreact at this stage to an untypically green tinge in the surface at his home ground, where spin is traditionally a basic requirement for a balanced attack.
With all-rounder Shane Watson able to bowl in the nets, despite the groin trouble he had in Australia's victory in Melbourne last week, even on a 'greentop' the hosts can therefore have four seam options - leaving room for off-spinner Nathan Lyon to be retained.
Clarke said: "I think it would be extremely romantic [to stick with same team].
"But you've got to pick the best 11 players to help you have success in the conditions you're playing.
"If conditions turn out to be similar to what they have been in the past four Test matches, then I think the selectors will go that way."
He acknowledged, however, the unfamiliar appearance of the Test strip - one which meant he was unable to name his own team, and also England's.
Clarke has made a habit in this series of reeling off England's likely line-up, not unerringly but with some success, on the eve of each Test.
This time, he said: "That's as much grass as I've seen on an SCG pitch.
"Looking at it today, I think it would certainly suit the fast bowlers, but ... I think the forecast is pretty warm for the week, so I still believe spin will play a part throughout the Test match."
Asked about the two team sheets, he added: "I don't have either. It's a sad day, isn't it?
"I have given it some thought, but I think the wicket will determine what England do."
There are strong hints that England may field as many as three debutants on Friday, as they try to avoid that 5-0 whitewash.
Clarke can empathise with the tourists, having led his team to a 3-0 series defeat in England just last summer.
"When you're not performing well as a team, [everyone] seems to notice everything," he said.
"When you're winning, you get away with murder. Everything seems to be covered over.
"You don't mean to drop catches; you don't mean to make no runs.
"We all get out of bed every day and train as hard as we do to try to perform - but it's a tough game."
Clarke still remembers the boos which came his way from the home crowd when England were winning down under three years ago.
Times have changed, but he is not about to forget - or pretend there will not be difficult days ahead again at some point.
"To ride the highs and lows makes you enjoy the success you have," he said.
"You need to find a way to get through the tough times, and then there's the other side - when you perform well, and the team does well, and the same people that booed you stand and applaud.
"That's obviously a very special feeling.
"I've copped a fair bit of stick, but even through that time I've had a lot of support from family and close friends.
"That's what probably makes this series so special to the team and me personally - a thank you to the people who have supported us."
It will be all the sweeter for him then if Australia can win again here, and he is confident he has the right men on his side to help them do that.
"I think that desire burns within every single player in the changing room," Clarke said.
"I think we showed (that) with the way we played at the MCG. This Test is no different."
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