AUSTRALIA Test captain Michael Clarke has shrugged off the accusation from former fast bowler Jason Gillespie that his side are too old to beat England and retain the Ashes this summer.
Gillespie, who was in contention to replace the sacked Peter Moores as England head coach before fellow countryman Trevor Bayliss was appointed, last week labelled Clarke’s squad “Dad’s Army”.
He also claimed that England should look to wear down “old blokes” such as wicketkeeper Brad Haddin and opener Chris Rogers, both 37, seamer Ryan Harris, 35, and injury-prone Clarke by keeping them toiling in the field.
Gillespie played in Australian sides which included former skippers Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting and bowling greats Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, who all played into their late thirties, and Clarke is eager for the current crop to prove a point to doubters.
“Jason’s entitled to his opinion,” said Clarke. “Join the queue. I’ve copped criticism my whole career so it’s not surprising to me.
“There’s a long list of people who’ve criticised this team. We might just add Dizzy [Gillespie] to that list of people we continue to prove wrong.”
World Cup winners Australia arrived in England last week ranked second in the Test rankings, having recorded series wins over South Africa, India and the West Indies, while also losing to Pakistan, since whitewashing England during the winter of 2013/14.
But their form in English conditions has been abject since their last series victory in 2001. Australia have prevailed in just two of their last 15 Test matches against their Ashes rivals in this country.
The tourists do, however, possess among their number the world’s top-ranked Test batsman in Steve Smith, a player who has averaged 102 over the last 12 months, and Clarke insists it is a healthy blend of experience and youth that will stand Australia in good stead.
“A lot of our young players have come a long way over the last few years,” added Clarke. “The senior players deserve a lot of credit for mentoring them and helping them through the tough times, and we’re seeing a lot of benefit from that.
“They will play a big role in this series, their youth and enthusiasm is vital to our squad. The experience of the senior players is critical too and hopefully we can find that perfect mix and we’re able to have success.”
EARLY TOUR DATES
■ 25-28 June: Four-day warm-up clash against Kent at Canterbury
■ 1-4 July: A further four-day showdown with Essex at Chelmsford
■ 8-12 July: First Investec Test against England at SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff
■ 16-20 July: Second Investec Test against England at Lord’s