Aussies aim to dominate in Twenty20
Australia's cricketers have been ordered to get serious about Twenty20 cricket as they seek to extend their world domination.
While Australia has admitted it has not always given the new format the priority it deserves, that will change tonight when a new-look side, under rookie captain Michael Clarke, takes on New Zealand at a sold-out WACA Ground.
"Cricket Australia has made a point to everyone playing this form of the game that this game (Twenty20) is going to stand alone," Clarke said yesterday.
"It is an important part of Australian cricket."
Captain Ricky Ponting, who has been rested from tonight's clash, admitted after the Twenty20 loss to India in October that Australia needed to become smarter about a format that demands great athleticism and power.
The underprepared Australians were also humbled by India in the inaugural World Cup semi-finals in South Africa this year, ending hopes of complete domination in all three international forms of the sport.
CA has told its players to shape up now that Twenty20 has become a massive cash cow at international and domestic level.
"I think you will see Australia continue to take Twenty20 cricket as seriously as one-day cricket and Test cricket," Clarke said.
"It is a form of the game that now stands alone, and it is going to be around for a lot longer yet.
"We are probably one of the countries that hasn't played too much Twenty20 cricket . . . so the more we play, the better.
"We need to approach it differently, sorting out what is the best team for Australia, sorting out what guys are best suited.
"We are certainly still learning and improving . . . we have got open minds to trial and error, to find out what is the best way for the Australian cricket team to win the 2009 world championships."
Clarke, 26, will take his first steps towards becoming Ponting's long-term successor tonight, although the former Australian under-19 skipper did his best yesterday to play down suggestions he was the heir apparent.
Ponting, 33, still has at least three or four years left in the game, but Clarke is next in line, provided he retains his form with the bat.
"First and foremost there are a lot of guys in the team that can captain the Australian cricket team," Clarke said.
"The fact of the matter is that Ricky is only 32, and I hope he is going to be around for a lot longer yet.
"Honestly, I am trying not to look past this game. I have been given the chance for one game and I am going to try and make the most of that.
"How much a captain can do in Twenty20 cricket, I am not sure. Again, it is going to be an opportunity to find out.
"But I don't want to look too far ahead. Ricky is our leader and a fantastic one at that."
Showers are forecast this morning in Perth, but officials are confident they will clear by game time.