Aussies to be hard but fair: Clarke

Thuggish. Bullies. Brutes. Graceless. Disrespectful.

They’re just some of the tags that pundits around the world have used in recent years to describe Australia’s unique brand of aggression on the cricket pitch.

It’s a reputation that has been difficult to shake for Michael Clarke, who admits he had overstepped the line in the most recent Ashes series.

But it’s not something that keeps Clarke awake at night.

“I don’t care too much. I know we play a tough brand of cricket,” Clarke said on the eve of the first Test against England.

“But we’re also respectful towards the players we play against, and to the game of cricket.

“A lot of it sells newspapers and it builds the series as well, so I’m more than happy for there to be a lot of talk about it.

“To me, it’s not what you say – it’s what you do.”

The seemingly perennial pre-Ashes topic of sledging has again dominated the lead-up.

Jimmy Anderson, himself one of England’s chattier players, called a fortnight ago for an armistice.

Within days, it became clear that wouldn’t be happening.

Clarke, who famously told Anderson to “get ready for a broken f***ing arm” in the first Test of the 2013-14 Ashes, called on his teammates to play hard but fair over the next eight weeks.

“You don’t have to sledge to play tough cricket,” he said.

“It’s as much about body language and intent.

“In the last Ashes series, if anyone overstepped it, it was me.

“So I have to make sure I set my standard.”

Referee Ranjan Madugalle will meet both skippers before day one in Cardiff.

The International Cricket Council recently cracked down on send-offs and Clarke agreed it was the right move.

“If you get someone out, you know you’ve won the battle anyway,” he said.

Brad Haddin tipped last week there should be some “fireworks” in the first Test, given what was on the line.

“Whether that be with bat, ball or whatever,” he said.

“Ashes campaigns are always fiercely competitive. There will be times when confrontations may happen.

“There has never really been any dramas with sledging. I don’t really see the need to talk about it.”

Mitchell Starc, who was cautioned over his send-off of India’s Murali Vijay in January, didn’t expect to get in too many verbal battles in the first Test.

“I am not one to chirp the batsmen. I am just trying to concentrate on bowling,” Starc said.

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