Australia target return to top
Sydney - Captain Michael Clarke expressed his confidence Monday that Australia can reclaim cricket's world number one ranking in a gruelling schedule of 20 Tests in the year ahead.
Australia, currently ranked third, begin their quest to return to the top of world cricket in the first of three Tests against the top-ranked South Africa in Brisbane on November 9.
That will be followed by three Tests at home against Sri Lanka in December-January, a four-Test tour to India in February-March before back-to-back Ashes series away and home.
After dominating world cricket since 1995, Australia's fortunes dived following the retirement of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden, culminating in a 3-1 Ashes defeat at home in the 2010/11 season.
But Australia showed signs of a revival with a 4-0 whitewash of India last summer at home and the emergence of a new generation of rising stars - David Warner, James Pattinson and Pat Cummins.
"I make no bones about the Australian team getting back on top," Clarke told the official launch of the Australian cricketing summer in Sydney on Monday.
"It's a really exciting 12-15 months, as big a time that I will have in my career.
"I can guarantee you it certainly won't be lack of work ethic that lets the Australian cricket team down."
Clarke said Australia had good foundations to build from their thrashing of India who, only months before, were ranked as the world's leading Test side.
"We started well against India and we are wanting to build on that," Clarke said.
"It is a really exciting time for this young side."
Back-to-back Ashes series will be played for the first time next year in a bid to avoid a scheduling conflict with this year's London Olympics and the 2015 World Cup in Australia.
Clarke said while there was mounting anticipation ahead of the Ashes in England next July-August his side needed to first prove their character against a battle-hardened South Africa.
"We have some really tough opposition in South Africa, the number one side in Test cricket, coming to Australia very soon and our main focus is on that," he said.
"England is always a tough series over there, the Ashes away and the Ashes at home, a very exciting 15 months.
"South Africa are as good a team as there is in the world. They are not only strong with the ball but they have a lot of batting. It is really important for us to stay focused on them and not to look too far forward."