Tough Decision To Leave Johnson Out - Clarke
Australian captain Michael Clarke says the decision to leave Mitchell Johnson out of the team to take on Sri Lanka in the first Test in Hobart was a tough one.
With Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus back in the side, Johnson misses out as he was preferred to fellow left-armer Mitchell Starc despite enjoying an impressive comeback against South Africa in Perth.
Australia will go into the match, which begins on 14th December, with a seam-heavy attack on a pitch that is expected to favour quick bowlers, and bet365 make the home side 4/7 favourites to win the game.
"Mitch should feel unlucky, there is no doubt about it," Clarke said. "I think, like I said in Perth, Siddle and Hilfenhaus were unfit and both weren't 100% fit for that Test match, so they missed that game.
"Mitchell Starc has been in the queue for a while now and I thought he came in and did a really good job in Perth as well. In saying that Mitchell Johnson bowled very well in Perth and he is unlucky to miss out but we've gone with this attack for this Test match, in these conditions against the opposition we are playing."
The back-to-back Ashes series might be looming large on the horizon and filling up column inches with both Clarke and opposite number Alastair Cook scoring freely, but Clarke insists that Starc's selection has not been made with that series in mind.
"For me, I'm not looking at the Ashes at all," Clarke said. "The reason Mitchell Starc is there is because he has been next in the queue for a while.
"He's performed really well in the shorter form of the game for Australia. He got one Test in Perth and got a six-fer and 70-odd with the bat as well so that's not a bad start either. I think whoever we left out in this test match would always be a topic of conversation, it was always going to be a tough selection."
Clarke is expecting Sri Lanka to offer a stiff challenge, with their squad including several players with experience of touring Australia.
"We're playing against a good Sri Lankan team who know the conditions pretty well and know Australia quite well. A lot of the Sri Lankan players have a lot of experience so our preparation has been outstanding over the last few of days," he said.
As well as which fast bowlers to select, Clarke and the selectors have also been faced with questions about who bats where with four of the top five (Ed Cowan, David Warner, Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes and Michael Hussey) all having had experience opeing the batting in Tests.
With Clarke expected to remain at number five in the order, he sees having so many players with opeing experience as a strength.
"As a young player I batted number four for New South Wales my whole career and always as a kid wanted to bat number four for Australia. I guess the older you get and the wiser you get you work out and realise the number is irrelevant it's about having success and helping the team win.
"I think that's where I am at the minute. If I bat three or four or five it doesn't bother me. The strength and advantage we have in our top four now is that all four have opened the batting for Australia, so against a new ball they'll all be very well suited.
"I do believe if we lose early wickets we're very capable against the new ball which is always a positive.
"I think if you look at our top three they're all very different players, they all have great strengths, and they've all scored a 100 for Australia.
"There is plenty of talent there, it's now about owning your position and making the most of it, grabbing a hold of this oppotunity with both hands.
"They have a chance to build a long successful career, wether it be opening the batting, batting, at three or four. I think all of our top four batters have now seen a bit of success at this level and it's now about grabbing hold of that chance."
© Cricket World 2012
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