By Nick Mulvenney
PERTH (Reuters) - Australia's transformation over the last three months came about because the players simply got fed up with losing and decided to put in the hard work to turn their fortunes around, captain Michael Clarke said after they won the Ashes on Tuesday.
In March, Clarke was captain of an Australia team in crisis with as many off-field problems as they had on it and soon to lose their coach after a 4-0 series drubbing in India.
In August having conceded a third straight Ashes series to the English, he was in charge of a team that had played 10 tests, lost seven, drawn two and won one in 2013.
On Tuesday, though, he was celebrating winning back the earthenware symbol of Anglo-Australian sporting rivalry with emphatic victories in the first three tests of the series.
"I can only put it down to hard work," he told reporters. "The way the guys have trained and prepared, that's not just batting in the nets or bowling in the nets. The guys are fitter, they're stronger.
"Mentally they're certainly as well prepared for opposition players as possible. Then the work they're doing in the nets. It all adds up."
Clarke, who keeps to his line in news conferences as well as his bowlers did in the 150-run victory at the WACA which sealed one of the best moments of his 100-test career, warmed to his theme.
"If you don't have success, if you're not performing as you'd like as an individual player or as a team, you get to a place where you get sick of losing, or sick of not getting runs, or not taking wickets," he added.
"You find a way to turn it around. And the only way to turn it around is through lots of hard work. Lots of dedication and lots of sacrifice and throughout this series.
"Individual players have put the team first on every occasion and that's why we sit here as winners today."
Although reluctant to single out individuals for credit, Clarke was prepared to pay tribute to the work done by a bowling unit spearheaded by Mitchell Johnson.
Pilloried by England's Barmy Army fans for the last four years for his sometimes erratic bowling, Johnson has returned from injury with a vengeance in this series and taken 23 wickets at an average of 15.47 so far.
"The other guys have played a big part to allow Mitch to bowl the way he's bowled," Clarke said.
"This game is a really good example, his pace probably wasn't as high as the first two test matches, but he executed with his skill and he's got natural variation.
"That's the class of Mitchell Johnson."
Clarke's reluctance to single out individuals means he has largely deflected any requests for comments about the influence of new coach Darren "Boof" Lehmann with wider remarks about all the backroom staff.
Shane Watson, one of four Australians punished with a one-test ban for not providing post-match analysis on the tour of India, showed no such reticence after bludgeoning a brilliant century to help set up the WACA victory on Monday.
"From the first week Darren Lehmann took over, it has been the most exciting time in my career to be involved in the Australian team," he said.
"In everyone's career, especially mine, to know the sort of ups and downs we've been through over the last few years ... we're certainly having a lot of fun out there and playing the way we know we're going the best out of ourselves."
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)
- Sports & Recreation