LONDON — Australia captain Michael Clarke insists his team is confident and united ahead of Thursday’s second Ashes test against England despite the leaking of explosive revelations in a lawsuit by former coach Mickey Arthur.
The second test in the five-match series at Lord’s is spectacularly set up after underdog Australia lost at Nottingham on Sunday by just 14 runs, threatening a record chase against the odds. The game was widely compared to another thriller in Birmingham in 2005.
Australia’s newfound unity and belief was seemingly put at risk with the release of the documents relating to South African Arthur’s compensation claim in which he alleges racial discrimination and scapegoating after he was fired last month.
But Clarke, who is working closely with new coach Darren Lehmann, is staying positive.
"It’s not distracting at all," Clarke said on Wednesday. "Our focus is the second test as a lot of the guys haven’t experienced a test at Lord’s so they’re extremely excited. We can’t wait.
"It is important for me to keep my eyes on the field. We as a team know we have a really important job to do in this test match and for the rest of this series. None of this will be a distraction to me personally and it certainly won’t be to the team."
Some of the details leaked from Arthur’s multi-million dollar claim quoted Clarke as saying the influence of his fellow senior player Shane Watson was like "a cancer" on the team. Watson was one of four players sent home from a tour of India in March for not carrying out team administration duties.
Clarke was reluctant to be drawn on the topic and instead spoke of the new, positive atmosphere that Lehmann, a two-time World Cup winner as a player, had created.
"It’s great to have Darren Lehmann on board," Clarke said. "He has been outstanding in galvanising us and bringing us together, and the public saw that in our play at Nottingham. The guys are in a really good place and full of confidence. What happened at Nottingham should inspire us to go one better."
Australia has won 16 of its 36 tests at Lord’s, losing just six to host England, which snapped a 75-year hiatus in 2009 by winning its first Lord’s test against Australia since 1934.
England captain Alastair Cook, who led his team impressively in the Trent Bridge victory in what was his first Ashes test as skipper, said he was not encouraged by Australia’s off-field issues but did comment on the need for cohesion in any team.
"It’s not for us to comment on and never has been," Cook said. "One of our strengths is we concentrate solely on ourselves.
"We know how important team spirit is, we know how important the team culture is, and we’ve experienced difficulties in the past but for me to comment on what’s happening in the Australia camp would be wrong and anyone who saw what happened at Trent Bridge would see it doesn’t seem to be affecting them."
Cook, meantime, gave little away in terms of team selection though his chief dilemma would seem to be whether to retain the fastest bowler in the team, Steven Finn, who appeared to be struggling with confidence at Trent Bridge, or recall fellow bowler Tim Bresnan, who generally offers more control and superior batting ability.
"We will make the decision tomorrow morning by the toss," Cook said. "We’re in a fine position at the moment in terms of fast bowling stocks, we’ve got a lot of very good fast bowlers, and it’s always a tough call whom we have in the side."
Australia is also considering a change, with No. 3 batsman Ed Cowan under pressure after scoring a first-ball duck and 14 in Nottingham.