LONDON: Australia captain Michael Clarke came to the defence of his embattled selectors on Tuesday, saying they weren’t picking a side for a “charity tour” as the tourists looked to salvage a consolation win in the final match of their disappointing Ashes series in England.
Clarke’s men head into the final Test at The Oval starting Wednesday 3-0 down in the five-match series and having failed to win any of their last eight Tests.
No Australia side have yet lost four Ashes Tests in England and none have lost the urn anywhere 4-0.
So far this Ashes, top-order batting has been Australia’s greatest weakness with eight batsmen being tried in the first six spots of a team trying to fill the void left by the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey.
Not since the first two Tests of the tour of India earlier this year have Australia used the same top six in the same order in consecutive Tests.
Recently, former captain Steve Waugh, who didn’t score a hundred until his 26th Test before becoming one of the leading batsmen of his era, urged the selectors to adopt a ‘pick and stick’ approach.
Waugh also criticised Australia coach Darren Lehmann for warning players their careers were in jeopardy after the latest in a long line of collapses saw the side suffer a 74-run defeat by England in the fourth Ashes Test at Durham.
But Clarke said the top order weren’t making life easy for a selection panel headed by former Australia batsman John Inverarity and including wicketkeeping great Rodney Marsh.
“I know there’s been a lot of talk back home about consistency of selection but the selectors are trying to do everything in their power to help us win and if guys aren’t performing, unfortunately you can’t select them,” Clarke.
“We’re trying, or the selectors, I guess, are trying to be as consistent as they can but we’re also here to win the game.
“This is not a charity tour. It’s not about giving blokes a go and hoping for the best,” said Clarke.
“All the selectors can do is pick what they feel is the best XI but it’s up to us as players to do our job and unfortunately our batting has let us down throughout the series so far.
“But, I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, we’ve got blokes with the talent there that can do it.”
“Apart from Ian Bell (the England batsman who has scored three hundreds so far this Ashes) no-one else has really blitzed the batting.
“But you’ve just got to keep fighting. You’ve got to find a way to get as many as you can,” added Clarke.
Meanwhile Alastair Cook, who has presided over a largely settled team during his time as England captain, hailed the benefits of stability.
“If one person doesn’t have a great game, we’ve seen in the past how much continuity in selection helps people perform at the highest level,” Cook said.
However, reflecting on an ultimately victorious 2-1 Test series win in India late last year, where England’s defeat in the Ahmedabad opener was followed by an altered side’s win in Mumbai, Cook said there were times when drastic action was required.
“We’re not scared to make big changes to the team. When we were in India, the first game we played three seamers and one spinner and we got it wrong.
“We could have stuck to our policy but — we held our hands up — we got it wrong in that Test, so we changed it.”