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Gloves off, boots on as Australia step up Ashes prep

Written by: Staff
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SYDNEY, Aug 24 (Reuters) Australia's top players have swapped traditional white cricket clothing for Army greens as they step up their preparations to win back the Ashes in the Queensland bush.

Twenty-five players, including captain Ricky Ponting and master leg-spinner Shane Warne, headed out of Brisbane in the early hours of last morning for a hike in the Beerwah State Forest.

After being split into groups of six, the players undertook a gruelling walk carrying 35 kilogram jerry cans at the start of a four-day team-building exercise dreamed up by their coach John Buchanan. Warne, who had expressed concerns about the camp, was placed in the same group as Buchanan and the pair were put through their paces by team security expert Reg Dickason and other former SAS soldiers.

''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,'' Warne 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.'' Buchanan said he was happy to have time with the players away from cricket to work on personal development.

''One of the ways to do that is go away from things that we've got used to and putting ourselves in things we're not used to,'' he said.

Middle-order batsman Damien Martyn missed the start of the camp to look after his sick wife but was due to join up with his team mates in time for the second day's activities.

Australia will play a one-day tournament in Malaysia and the ICC Champions Trophy in India before the first Ashes test against England starts in Brisbane on Nov. 23.

REUTERS PM PM0906

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