|Player:||MJ Clarke, SR Watson, IM Chappell, KD Walters, A Flintoff, MJ Slater, SR Waugh|
DateLine: 20th November 2006
Several Australian Test greats have urged selectors to play batsman Michael Clarke in Thursday's first Ashes Test even if all-rounder Shane Watson is declared fit to face England.
The New South Wales right-hander has been called into the Australian squad as cover for Watson, who is in doubt for the Test after injuring a hamstring while bowling in a domestic one-dayer last Friday. But former Test captain Ian Chappell believes the selectors have erred in picking Watson in the first place and Clarke is the better option for the first of five Tests against the tourists at the Gabba.
"I really don't count Watson's bowling as sufficient enough to put him ahead of Clarke," Chappell told Sydney's Sun-Herald newspaper Sunday. "I really think that you're talking about two batsmen here and, if you're picking a batsman then, to me, Michael Clarke was the better option."
Another former Test batsman Doug Walters wants selectors to pick Clarke and abort their quest to find an all-rounder answer to England's Andrew Flintoff. "They should go for the bloke who should have been there in the first place," Walters said of Clarke's claims for the No.6 batting spot. "He hasn't done too badly given the limited opportunities he's had."
Walters said Australia's ageing batting line-up needed an injection of youth and Clarke needed to be fast-tracked back into the side. "We're going to be looking for some batsmen in six months and they're going to have to call him in then," he said. "Why not get him in now? Why wait six months? He's 25 and you can't keep calling up 35-year-old blokes to replace 38-year-olds."
Former Test opener Michael Slater said Clarke, who averages 36.23 in Test cricket and has not scored a century in his past 25 Test innings, deserves another chance. "I must admit I'd love to see Clarkey get a go. I'm a huge fan of his," Slater said. "I think he should be in the Test side. But it seems they regard him as a No.6 and they've been looking for an all-rounder in that spot."
Former Test skipper Steve Waugh is adamant Clarke would fire if given a reprieve, but is concerned about his limited first-class preparation. It is two years since Clarke hammered his second, and last, hundred for Australia - a blistering 141 against New Zealand at the Gabba.
"If they want a batsman, it has to be Michael Clarke," Waugh said. "He's done what the selectors have asked of him - to go back and score runs."