SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia have decided to put captain Michael Clarke under wraps with fast bowlers Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle ahead of next week's Ashes opener, withdrawing the trio from domestic fixtures to prepare for the test in Brisbane.
With the hosts facing the possibility of a fourth straight Ashes series defeat over the next two months, Cricket Australia are taking no chances with the fitness of their best batsman and top strike bowlers.
Clarke has played two Sheffield Shield matches for New South Wales after skipping Australia's one-day tour of India to rest the degenerative back condition that has afflicted him for several years.
The trio will prepare instead at Cricket Australia's new high performance facility in Brisbane, where the series begins at the Gabba on November 21.
"We're very pleased with Michael's preparation ahead of the first test," Australia coach Darren Lehmann said in a news release.
"The plan for his Ashes build-up was to play two Sheffield Shield matches, which he has done successfully. He has spent valuable time in the middle batting and fielding.
"Importantly his back has coped well in both matches, but we will continue to take a sensible and cautious approach to managing him."
Harris has been plagued by injuries throughout his career and played twice for Queensland in Sheffield Shield only after recovering from a hamstring injury sustained in the final match of the first Ashes series of the year in England.
Siddle has been less injury prone but with fellow quicks Mitchell Starc, Jackson Bird and James Pattinson likely to miss all or the part of the series will not be risked playing for Victoria this week.
"Ryan and Peter are both in great condition," Lehmann added. "As part of their management plan they will continue their preparation under the guidance of national coaching staff in Brisbane over the coming days."
All three are certain to be named in the squad for the opening test, which will be announced in Brisbane on Tuesday, with Mitchell Johnson looking likely to join Harris and Siddle in the pace attack.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)