Michael Clarke seeking Ashes redemption

Published: Monday, September 4, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney: Getting picked for Australia was the easy part for Michael Clarke -- keeping his place in the team has proved much harder.

The 25-year-old batsman has been regarded as Australia's brightest new hope since scoring a century on his Test debut against India two years ago but is now struggling to cement his place in the side.

His average has dropped from 75 to 36 and a lean run in the 2005 Ashes series eventually caused him to be dropped during last year's home series against West Indies.

One-day series

With Australia not scheduled to play any Tests before the Ashes, Clarke is planning to use next month's One-day series in Malaysia and the Champions Trophy in India to stake his claim for inclusion in the Test squad.

''To put your case forward to be selected in any team you need runs on the board and for me the only opportunity I'm going to get is One-day cricket,'' he said.

''If I don't perform there then I will have no case to put forward to be selected for the Ashes.

''If I don't perform, it might mean that I don't even get a chance to play in this Ashes series.

''I had the opportunity and I failed and I got dropped, somebody else has come in and has performed.

''I have to fight even harder to get a second chance. I want that second chance and I will do whatever I can to get that second chance.''

Clarke was recalled for the tour to Bangladesh in April but knows he needs a mountain of runs to retain his spot for the Ashes, starting in Brisbane in late November.

''You've got to work hard for every run, as soon as you think you are in or you can take something for granted it will come back and bite you on the bum and that was proven for me,'' Clarke told reporters at a training camp.

''If you want to play at the top level, if you don't perform someone else will take your spot, it's as simple as that.'' Clarke said the disappointment of being dropped has ultimately proved a blessing in disguise because it made him reassess his priorities.

The New South Welshman admitted he had become distracted by the glare of playing in the Test team and said his game was starting to suffer as a result.

''As much as I hate to say getting dropped is a good thing because it's the worst feeling in the world, but when I look back now I feel it was probably was the kick up the bum that I needed,'' he said.

''It hurt but it did give me the opportunity to go back and be out of the limelight and out of media and I learned a lot about my preparation.

''When I got dropped I believed my preparation was sliding, I was not training as hard as I normally do, I was so busy with other things, I didn't have the time.

''I realised that this is what got me to this level, working and training as hard as I can, being so prepared.

''I see it as the game testing me, I'm a young guy trying to get to a place in a hurry when maybe it does take time to become the best you can be.'' Clarke sought the advice of senior team mates, including Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting, to help turn things around and believes he has learnt his lesson though he is taking nothing for granted.

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