Outwardly, the captaincy style harks back to another era, back in the mid-1980s when Australia was struggling in the international arena.
     
And with good reason -- England is in Australia with a settled squad and favored to win a fourth consecutive Ashes series for the first time since the 1880s.
     
Clarke and the Australians will have to be at their grittiest best to stop them.  
     
Australia's squad is more settled than it was during the tumultuous buildup to the last Ashes series in England, which only finished in August with the home team as 3-0 victors.
     
England has won eight of the last 15 Ashes tests, and won four of the five Ashes series since ending Australia's dominating run with a home triumph in 2005.
     
In the weeks leading up to the last Ashes series, Cricket Australia fired South African Mickey Arthur as coach -- bringing in former test batsman Darren Lehmann as a late replacement -- and suspended opener David Warner after a night club incident.
     
The squad never seemed to recover, but is outwardly showing signs of growing confidence ahead of a home series.
     
"We've played a lot more cricket now as a group. The five tests in England helped us as a group," Clarke told a news conference.
     
"It would be silly to compare where we were then compared with where we are now. Different series, different conditions."
     
Rival players have been trading barbs in the media and on social networks in recent days, with Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad having plenty to say for England, and Warner and co. firing salvos from Australia.
     
It's all hype, Clarke said, and means nothing come Thursday morning. He didn't respond to questions about Broad, Pietersen's 100th test cap or the chances of wicketkeeper Matt Prior recovering from injury to play in the first test for England.

(Agencies)

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