Leading light: Australian Twenty20 skipper George Bailey. Photo: AP
MICHAEL Clarke has thrown down the gauntlet to batsmen around the country, warning them only centuries will be enough for them to come under consideration for national selection this summer.
On the eve of the domestic season, the Australian Test captain wants to see those on the fringes of the national side place more pressure on the incumbents. ''If you're going to play for Australia, you've got to put numbers on the board,'' he said at New South Wales' season launch.
''If you get a start you've got to go on and make a big score. I'd love to see some double hundreds … If you want to put your hand up for selection, that's the way to do it.''
Australian selectors have given opportunities to players such as George Bailey, Peter Forrest and Usman Khawaja in the past 12 months but there is still no clear candidate to take over should any of the top six batsmen flop.
With Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey rising 38, Australia is looking urgently to improve its batting stocks ahead of bumper series against South Africa and India leading up to the Ashes next year.
Clarke's team can reclaim the No. 1 Test ranking by defeating South Africa, though next month's Champions League Twenty20 tournament, of which Cricket Australia is an organiser, has again provided some issues regarding Australia's preparations for a key series.
Having publicly said Test cricket remains Australia's No. 1 priority, CA wants to ensure there is no repeat of two years ago when Doug Bollinger broke down during a Test in India after arriving in camp just two days before the match due to Twenty20 duties.
''I think we can certainly learn from that,'' Clarke said. ''[Manager] Pat Howard's been exceptional in regards to our planning. He's made no bones about prioritising Test cricket.
''He wants us to beat the No. 1 Test team in the world at the start of the Australian summer. Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do - [the Champions League] has been put in this place some time ago.''
The international spotlight is currently on the shortest form of the game, less than a week before the start of the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka. The Australians, ranked a lowly ninth, start their campaign on Wednesday against Ireland (10th).
Despite Australia's lowly status, Clarke said Bailey's team could go one better than the side he led to second place behind England in the Caribbean two years ago.
''I think we can win the T20 World Cup, for sure,'' he said. ''I think we've got the talent - we showed that in the last game against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates. I think we've showed that in patches over the last couple of years.''