We’re still the best, says Australia’s Clarke

Australian batsman Michael Clarke has scoffed at suggestions his team’s mantle as the world’s top cricketing nation is under threat after the retirement of players ranked among the all-time greats.

Opponents have been hoping that the loss of players such as Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist will spell the end of Australia’s long dominance of world cricket, but Clarke said such speculation was premature.

”I think Australia is playing as well as ever, and I think our squad is as good as it has ever been,” Clarke told the Sydney Morning Herald.

”We have definitely lost a few great players in the last two years, but people come and go and the game stays the same,” he added in comments published on Thursday.

Clarke, speaking ahead of Australia’s tour of the West Indies, said both he and captain Ricky Ponting were excited at the prospect of a new crop of players stepping up and fulfilling their potential.

The 27-year-old, regarded as Ponting’s natural successor, admitted he was left drained by the recent series with India, which was marred by allegations of racism and poor sportsmanship.

Clarke was one of the few Australians to reject big-money offers to play in an ongoing Indian tournament, preferring instead to spend time with his fiancée and family, including father Les, who is battling Hodgkin’s Disease.

”It was a big summer, a very competitive summer,” he told the Herald.

”Just getting away from the game at that stage, getting away from the limelight, I really needed it.

”I love cricket, but at times it can feel like being stuck in a garage and I wanted to get back to that place where you are so keen to get back into it.

”And now I’m feeling great, I feel very fresh at the moment. It’s great to be back with all the boys and I’m really enjoying some outdoor cricket training.” — Sapa-AFP

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