Australia v England: Michael Clarke tips opponents to compete for next year's World Cup crown
Australia captain backs England to be one of many teams in contention for success ahead of five-match post-Ashes series
Saturday 11 January 2014
Captain Michael Clarke believes England will be one of the major contenders to win next year's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Clarke has spent the majority of the winter undermining Alastair Cook's side during the 5-0 Ashes defeat, but he believes his opposite number could yet enjoy far more happier times in the Antipodes.
Despite the chaos that has enveloped England, Clarke believes they have a 50-over side to be feared ahead of their series opener in Melbourne on Sunday.
The 32-year-old expects they will show that over the course of the next five games - at venues that will host the World Cup in just over a year - and has warned his side that their own credentials will be significantly tested.
"England has got a very good one-day line-up," he said.
"They've got some really destructive batters and plenty of pace and bounce with their bowling as well.
"This is an important series because we will be playing in the same facilities that we will play the World Cup in, the same pitches, and against an opposition that is going to play a huge role.
"I think England is going to be extremely tough to beat in the World Cup.
"This is going to be great preparation. We will have to be at our best."
Australia sit second in the International Cricket Council's one-day rankings and just marginally above England.
Both teams could finish the series as the world's top-ranked 50-over team - albeit they would need the right set of results in this series as well as in India's concurrent five ODIs in New Zealand.
There was little between Australia and England in the ODI series in the summer, which Clarke's side won 2-1 to kick-start their revival.
That result continued a trend that has seen the team that has won the past four Ashes then lose the one-day series.
Clarke is wary of that fate befalling his side and warned they can ill afford complacency.
"For the guys who do play Test cricket, it's quite easy to take your foot off the pedal," he said.
"I said before the last two Test matches that we as a Test team had a lot to play for because we were ranked fifth at the time and we want to get back to number one.
"I say the same about this one-day unit. We know we are not the number one team in the world at this stage. That is our goal.
"If you want to be a part of this team, you cannot afford to take your foot off the pedal.
"I think it's really important we continue to play good, positive cricket."
Clarke named his starting XI for Sunday's match at the MCG a day early with James Pattinson and Shaun Marsh the players to miss out, while Mitchell Johnson is being rested after his Ashes exertions.
That means David Warner will make a return to the ODI set-up for the first time since his controversial Champions Trophy last June.
Warner aimed a punch at Joe Root in a Birmingham bar after Australia's group-stage defeat - an incident which prompted him to lose his place in all formats before a return to form this winter.
Clarke confirmed Warner would open the batting alongside Aaron Finch with Shane Watson - who hit a match-winning unbeaten 161 when these sides last met at the MCG in 2011 - at three.
"It's just what we feel is the best XI for this first game," Clarke said.
"I think the wicket looks really good, we think it's going to be a little bit two paced. We think this is the best team for this first match."
Clarke revealed he had no plans to rest during the series, although that is a decision that could be made over his head.
The right-hander's chronic back problem twice flared last year - resulting in him missing the Champions Trophy and the ODI tour of India.
"I feel good at the moment. That will be decided by the people well and truly above me," he said.
"If they think I should miss a game then I'll have that conversation with (coach) Darren Lehmann and the selectors.
"But right now I'm really keen to help this team win this one-day series."
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