Clarke confident on Marsh, Bird for South Africa tour
Melbourne: Australian captain Michael Clarke on Wednesday said he was confident Shaun Marsh and Jackson Bird will be fit to face top-ranked South Africa as the squad flew out for a three-Test tour.
Batsman Marsh is struggling with a calf strain while paceman Bird has a back problem, with both players remaining in Australia to prove their fitness.
Australia have already lost all-rounder James Faulkner with a knee injury and Clarke would like to have the pair available for the tourists` only warm-up match starting on February 5 in Potchefstroom ahead of the opening Test on February 12 at Centurion.
"Yeah, ideally I would (like them available for the tour match)," said Clarke. "I`d like them to be on this plane now but that`s not realistic.
"I think you`ve got to give them every opportunity. They`re an important part of our squad. They`re two very important players and I`m positive they`ll both come up OK.
"Fingers crossed they`ll both be on a plane sooner rather than later."
Australia head to South Africa full of confidence after crushing England 5-0 in the Ashes series, and Clarke said his team`s aggressive brand of cricket would not change against the number one ranked Test nation.
"I think our tactics will be different to a certain extent, they are different players, they have different strengths, different weaknesses, so we`ll assess each individual player," he said.
"But I don`t think our brand of cricket will change."
Clarke knows it will be a tough test for his team in South Africa, despite not keeping track of South Africa`s recent 1-0 Test series win over India.
"I didn`t watch one ball of that series to be honest. I couldn`t even tell you the result. Did they win that series?" Clarke asked.
"A lot of teams in Test cricket are having success in their own backyard but the greatest challenge is to be able to win away from home so that`s what we face right now.
"They`re always tough to face, no doubt about it," he added.
All the players who faced England in the Ashes, bar George Bailey, are in Australia`s 15-man squad, with Marsh, Bird, fast bowler James Pattinson and uncapped batsman Alex Doolan also included.
Moises Henriques has been drafted in for the injured Faulkner.
Following the first Test at Centurion, Australia head to Port Elizabeth for the second Test from February 20. The third and final Test starts in Cape Town on March 1.
They also play three Twenty20 internationals.