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Oz in the wild in bid to retrieve Ashes!

The cricketers began their ordeal with a day-long hike up and down hills and in and out of the snake-infested Beerwah.

india Updated: Aug 25, 2006 14:34 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Australia's cricketers have immersed themselves in a four-day commando-style camp in a Queensland forest to help strengthen team spirit ahead of November's Ashes series with England.

The country's 25 leading players, backpacks filled with bare essentials and army rations and carrying cans filled with water, are in Queensland's Sunshine Coast hinterland for the boot camp.

The elite cricketers begun their ordeal Wednesday with a day-long hike up and down hills and in and out of the snake-infested Beerwah State Forest, north of Brisbane.

It is all part of coach John Buchanan's plans for team-building and a personal development exercise to toughen his charges ahead of a five-Test series campaign to retrieve cricket's Ashes.

The camp is being overseen by the team's security expert Reg Dickason and staffed by several fellow former SAS soldiers.

The commando nature of the camp has prompted concerns from several players, particularly specialist Test leg-spinners Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill, as well as the players' union.

The Australian Cricket Association (ACA) has taken player concerns about the timing of the camp to Cricket Australia and also sought assurances about the safety of players.

"There's a commando-type aspect to the camp and we wanted to make sure that players are not in danger of putting themselves in physical harm," ACA chief Paul Marsh said Wednesday.

While Cricket Australia has insured their 25 contracted players "to the hilt", according to a spokesman, the four days out in the wild are designed to be challenging rather than dangerous.

"We've got to be reasonable," Dickason said Wednesday. "We've got to take them outside their comfort zone but can't be stupid about it.

"We're dealing with elite athletes and we've got to do the right thing by them."

Hampshire captain Warne, who won't play for Australia until the Ashes, was one player to voice his opposition to Buchanan's camp, particularly due to the timing.

Warne stood by his reservations on Wednesday but was upbeat about the challenge.

"I wasn't sure whether it's going to work but I think all of us have come here with an open mind to try and get something out of it and try and grab what it's all about as far as teamwork and bonding and all those sort of things," he said.

"We're all going to try and do that and I suppose at the end of it we'll see if it's a worthwhile exercise or not.

"We're just trying to work out whether they're easing us into it or it's been hard straight up."

First Published: Aug 23, 2006 19:07 IST