England weaker without Pietersen: Clarke

Australia’s Test cricket captain Michael Clarke says he would love to see Kevin Pietersen back in the England side, but with the Ashes looming, perhaps not too soon.

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While he feels for Pietersen, Clarke – at Sydney Airport on Sunday prior to leaving for the two-Test tour of the West Indies – let Andrew Strauss know that England are a weaker side without the prolific South-African born batsman.

Strauss, England’s new director of cricket, last week said a “massive trust issue” would prevent Pietersen from returning to the England team, with Test series coming up against New Zealand and then Australia starting in July.

Clarke, who will captain Pietersen in the Melbourne Stars’ Big Bash T20 side next summer, had mixed feelings over the saga.

“There’s probably two sides for me: there’s the personal side where obviously I feel for KP, because I get on well with him and I’d love to see him back playing for England,” Clarke said.

“His form has been outstanding and he’s still a great player and I know he wants to play, so I feel for him on that side.

“The other side (is) we go there soon to play against England, so any team without Kevin Pietersen in it I don’t think is as strong.

“I have tried to stay pretty quiet and stay out of it.

“I think the last thing we can afford to do as an Australian team is get caught up in what’s happening in England or West Indies or anywhere else.”

Clarke, who was dogged by fitness issues in the lead-up to Australia’s World Cup win last month, said he felt fit and healthy.

West Indies won their last Test against England to square the recent three-match home series 1-1 and Clarke said the world No.8-ranked team possessed a very good bowling attack.

“I think they swung the ball well, whether that was with the brand new ball or reverse swing,” Clarke said.

“They’ve got some handy spinners as well, so I think the conditions we’re about to face are going to be very similar to the subcontinent.

“I think the wickets will be slow and low and will spin and they are coming off some form against England.”

He said conditions would dictate if Australia fielded a dual spin attack, with uncapped leggie Fawad Ahmed supporting offie and first-choice tweaker Nathan Lyon.

Australia will be forced to make a minimum of two changes to the team that played their last Test against India in Sydney back in January.

Batsman Joe Burns didn’t make the touring party and paceman Ryan Harris is being rested for the Ashes series.

Clarke and Mitchell Johnson are the likely replacements, while Mitchell Marsh and Adam Voges are batting options, and Ahmed and paceman Peter Siddle offer bowling alternatives.

At 34, Clarke accepts the upcoming tours of the West Indies and England will be his final visits to those territories, now he has retired from one-day international cricket.

Although focused on the West Indies, Clarke would clearly love to win an Ashes series in England, where he has been part of the last three losing campaigns.

“It would be very special there’s no doubt about it,” Clarke said. “I think the last time we won the Ashes in England was 2001, so it’s been a long time.”

Clarke said he had not spoken to anyone about a mooted rebel T20 league.

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