Ashes 2015: Australians fired up to prove Michael Clarke critics wrong at the Oval

Mitchell Marsh accuses Buchanan of disrespecting ‘legendary’ captain after Ashes defeat

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The Independent Online

When one side or the other loses heavily in an Ashes series, it is hardly unusual for the vanquished captain to come under fire. Michael Clarke’s position as main target amid a barrage of criticism back home in Australia has not been helped by the collapse of his batting form.

Yet Clarke remains a popular leader with his squad. Mitchell Marsh, the young all-rounder who was left out of the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, believes the flak flying in Clarke’s direction as he prepares to bow out of international cricket at The Oval next week has been “disrespectful” and has angered the players.

Marsh’s response follows former Australia coach John Buchanan’s claim that what he called “the Baggy Green culture” had diminished under Clarke’s captaincy.

Buchanan was in charge only for the first four years of the 34-year-old batsman’s international career and left four years before Clarke became captain. “There were times when I felt Michael did not understand or did not want to understand,” he said.

Marsh hit back by claiming such comments would be an added motivation to his team-mates to win the final Test, even though the series is irretrievable.

“We have been angered in a way by what has been said,” Marsh said. “It is a bit disrespectful to someone who has given the game so much. I haven’t read too much of it but from what people have said to me it is pretty hurtful.

“Michael Clarke has been a great player. His stats show that and he will go down as one of the legends of Australian cricket. We’ll be focused on seeing him out in a winning fashion in the way he deserves.

“Speaking for myself, I can say that from the word go ‘Pup’ has been really supportive of me and given me every opportunity. Once you walk over that white line he is an awesome captain, who really backs you as a player, and I’m sure I speak for the other players when I say that.

“He has also been great to learn from, from a leadership point of view, and tactically one of our best captains ever. He has done a great job.”

Assuming Shane Watson’s Test career is at an end, the 23-year-old Marsh is a strong contender to be recalled at The Oval, probably at the expense of his brother, Shaun, who made scores of 0 and 2 after Australia dispensed with the all-rounder in favour of an extra batsman.

He has the chance to make his case in the tourists’ three-day match against Northamptonshire, which begins on Friday. The Australians trained at Wantage Road yesterday. Marsh said morale in the squad remained strong.

“The last few days have been tough, losing the Ashes is tough to swallow,” he said. “The Ashes is the pinnacle for an Australian cricketer and to lose an Ashes series is hugely disappointing.

“But we have another Test match to play. It doesn’t matter that we are 3-1 down, we still want to win. The morale in the squad is great, we have a great bunch of guys who get along together well and we are looking forward to getting out on the field again. We want Michael Clarke to finish with a win and all our focus now is on making the scoreline 3-2.”

Clarke was not at Northampton yesterday and is not expected to take part in the match, with one-day captain and Clarke’s probable successor Steve Smith likely to lead the side. Pat Cummins, named alongside Mitchell Marsh, Smith, Watson, David Warner and Mitchell Starc among the six members of the Test squad who will remain in England for the five-match ODI series, is also likely to play.

With Brad Haddin back in Australia, having been allowed to return home for family reasons, Peter Nevill will keep wicket. The likes of leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed and veteran seamer Peter Siddle could be included if there were real prospects of them playing at The Oval.

However, neither has been particularly impressive so far on the tour and the recall of Mitchell Marsh may be the only change. Cummins, who made his ODI debut in the same match as Marsh in South Africa in 2011 but has not played a Test since that tour because of injuries, may give himself a chance with a strong showing at Northampton.

Given that Clarke and Chris Rogers have already announced their retirements, and with Siddle, Watson, Haddin and Adam Voges probably at the end of their careers too, the likes of Cummins and Marsh represent a future in which the latter believes Australia will rise again quickly.

“Losing the Ashes is not something you want to be a part of, but at the end of the day you have to look forward,” he said. “There are some young guys coming in and, hopefully, I’m one of them. This [ODI series] is going to give us a great chance as a young group to start something special.”

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