Oz Ashes campaign to kickstart at Champions

Published: Friday, October 6, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Australia's campaign to regain the Ashes then successfully defend their World Cup will start in earnest at the Champions Trophy in India.

The biennial tournament may not carry the same kudos as the team's other targets but Australia's players are treating it no less seriously.

It is the only major international title to have eluded the dominant nation in world cricket and the timing of this year's event means it is likely to act as an unofficial selection trial for the home Ashes series against England.

Competition for places in both the Australian one-day and test teams is already intense and with the Ashes series due to start less than three weeks after the final on Nov 5, the players are all too aware they have score runs.

''This is a major tournament for me because if I don't perform there, then I will have no case to put forward to be selected for the Ashes,'' middle-order batsman Michael Clarke told Reuters.

''I will have to try to get some runs in this one-day series then I will have a case to take to the selectors and say 'I've got runs on the board, pick me for the first test'.''

Australian Pride: Winning the Champions Trophy has also become a matter of pride for Australia.

While they have won the World Cup three times and twice finished runners-up, they have never made it past the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy, or its predecessor, the ICC Knockout.

''We'll be certainly playing as well as we can to try to win that tournament. That's the only trophy that Australia hasn't won,'' Clarke added.

Australia warmed up for the tournament by winning a triangular series in Kuala Lumpur against India and West Indies, and are ready to flex their muscles in India.

The Australians fielded an experimental team in Malaysia and played well below their best, but the fact they were still able to win augers well for their prospects.

There were no major surprises in the 14-man Australian squad with selectors recalling Adam Gilchrist to beef up the top order and choosing a combination of experienced and fringe players pushing for selection in the Ashes squad.

''Australia has been successful in one-day internationals for a long time but we haven't won the ICC Champions Trophy and we've picked a side that we believe is capable of winning it,'' Australia's chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch said in a statement.

The 2007 World Cup is being hosted by the West Indies from March 11 to April 28.


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