By Rob Barnett
Alastair Cook says England can “salvage some pride” by following their Ashes whitewash with victory over Australia in the one-day series that starts tomorrow.
Cook’s side were beaten 5-0 in the Test rubber and have five one-day internationals to start to right those wrongs.
There is a lot more at stake, with India’s top spot in the ODI rankings available to both teams. Assuming there are five positive results, England need at least a 4-1 scoreline while 3-2 or better will do for Australia.
Furthermore, the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is little more than a year away. England and their Ashes rivals open their World Cup campaign with a clash at the MCG on Valentine’s Day.
Melbourne’s premier cricket venue, from where Cook and opposite number Michael Clarke spoke today, also hosts the opening ODI tomorrow.
Cook approaches it in charge of a vibrant squad, featuring the likes of Ben Stokes who announced himself in September’s NatWest Series and this winter’s Tests.
Cook said: “We came here to win the Ashes and take them home, and I think everyone knows how important the Ashes is to English people and Australian people. Now we’ve lost them, if we win this one-day series we salvage some pride from our performances.
"It's an exciting time for a lot of these young players in this side. They know they’ve got a World Cup in a year's time. And after them seeing what has happened to the Test team they’ll be thinking there is a lot of places up for grabs in it.
"You saw Ben Stokes in the one-day series against Australia really put his name forward and suddenly he looked like he belonged in an international side. He forced his way in that way and was obviously one of our stand-out players in that Ashes series.
"I know that those guys who are coming in - well I hope they know, they'd be pretty stupid if they don't know - that there are a lot of places up for grabs."
Cook recognises England’s fortunes can quickly change, as they did in early 2007 when the tourists recovered from an Ashes whitewash to win a triangular one-day series featuring Australia and New Zealand.
“The good thing is we’ve got a lot of fresh faces. I think over half the squad are fresh faces,” he added. “We have spoken about it, the guys who have played in those Test matches about the way that we want to go about it.
“Of course, when you haven’t been scoring runs and things haven’t been going well, your confidence is naturally going to have taken a hit. But it’s amazing how quickly it can turn round, the different format, the different people you play against, will free people up.
“One-day cricket does free people up. Here’s your chance to really express yourself away from the pressures of Test cricket performance. It will be tough for those lads, but also it’s a real show of character if they come through it and they start delivering the standards we know we are capable of. I think it will bode well for us.”
Clarke, who led Australia to a 2-1 win in September’s NatWest Series, is respectful of his opponents.
"England has got a very good one-day line-up," he said. "They've got some really destructive batters and plenty of pace and bounce with their bowling as well.
"This is an important series because we will be playing in the same facilities that we will play the World Cup in, the same pitches, and against an opposition that is going to play a huge role.
"I think England is going to be extremely tough to beat in the World Cup. This is going to be great preparation. We will have to be at our best."
While Cook will name his team at the toss tomorrow - minus Stuart Broad who is being rested for the first two ODIs - Clarke announced his side today.
Given Mitchell Johnson had already been given tomorrow’s game off, James Pattinson and Shaun Marsh are the players to miss out.
Australia XI: Michael Clarke (captain), David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty.