Australians lack confidence, captain claims

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The Australian cricket team are short on confidence. That's the considered opinion of George Bailey, the one day side's captain, a couple of weeks ahead of the Ashes. Given that the default setting for Australian confidence is usually upbeat verging on overbearing, this amounts to a significant admission.

Bailey was speaking after Australia made an early exit from the Champions' Trophy by losing to Sri Lanka. After a heavy defeat by England and a washed-out match with New Zealand, the loss confirmed that Australia's cricketers are not in the greatest shape. The recent furore over David Warner's punching of England's Joe Root has not helped.

Bailey has been an impressive stand-in captain in the absence of the injured Michael Clarke, although less so against Sri Lanka when he was run out in farcical circumstances. He is quite candid in his observations.

"There is probably not a great deal of confidence there," Bailey said. "But it's just a very different mindset, going from a one-day tournament to a Test series. The Ashes tends to bring out something special in both sides. Whatever can be written and said leading up into those games, until that first Test and the result of that first Test, that will dictate how the summer plays out."

The fitness of Clarke, known as "Pup", has been the issue dominating the Australia camp. Bailey wasn't certain that the captain would be ready for the first Test, but was optimistic. "I would imagine he would," Bailey said. "I was only really captain again this morning when Pup was ruled out. There was a real chance that he was going to play."

That sounded rather like Bailey being told to put a positive spin on Clarke's prospects. "If he could have got outside and got a bit more training under his belt in the last couple of days, I think he would have had a really good chance of playing this game," he added, seeming to blame the English climate for Clarke's lack of match fitness. It was a decent defensive performance from the stand-in batsman, but Australian morale remains suspect.

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