Over the two weeks that the Australian side has spent in the city, Michael Clarke’s perky presence in media interactions has probably had a knock on effect on his teammates. Most press conferences involving an Australian cricketer have produced a good quip or two.
Clarke’s responses have invariably been peppered with, apart from repartees and chortles, clear-cut sentences. This is not to say they have been completely free from standard cricketing clichés such as “executing plans.”
His pre-match presser on Thursday, on the eve of the first Test against India at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, consisted of much of the same blend.
He began by explaining why Australia’s eleven was named two days before the game. “The sooner we could let all the players know the more they can plan the next few days in regards to preparation. Also, Moises Henriques is making his debut. If he wants to fly in his family over to India, he has an opportunity as well.”
No mind games
Clarke laughed off the suggestion that it was a mind game and dropped hints about the nature of the pitch. “It is impossible to cut any more grass off the wicket because there is no grass. I didn’t think the wicket is going to change in two days.”
Just as a scribe began to pose a query on M.S. Dhoni’s obsession with rank-turners, Clarke interjected with a grin: “He’s going to get what he wants, I think, out here.”
The Australian skipper continued, “we have faced a lot of spin bowling in the first two practice games here. With the preparation we have had in the last 10 days, we are in a much better position than where we were. Playing spin bowling is no different to playing fast bowling.”
Clarke’s unit is neither the ‘Ugly Australians’ of the 70s nor the tough-as-weathered boots team carved out by Allan Border. It also lacks the champion performers that sides led by Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, in the first part of his captaincy stint, possessed in abundance.
Clarke seemed to be comfortable with the situation: “I am really enjoying the young team we have; many of the guys haven’t experienced Test cricket in India.
“We have tried to really soak up being in India and enjoy the different cultures. There are so many great things about this beautiful country and I am very lucky to have come here as captain of the team.”
The 31-year-old played down the omission of Mitchell Johnson. “Not necessarily do all your best individuals always get selected. We have tried to pick a team that we think can have success in these conditions in the first Test.”
He also congratulated Harbhajan Singh, who is set to play his 100th Test on Friday. “I think he’s been a wonderful player for India. To play 100 Test matches is a very special achievement. We have always had a lot of challenges on the field.”
Clarke, who was seen discussing technique with Ed Cowan in the nets later in the day, was confident Australia had all bases covered.
“We are going to try and use our strengths in conditions where we think fast bowling will play a part. The wicket will deteriorate and it generally spins a lot more or is up and down.
“I hope the fast bowlers will get some balls to come through quicker or stay a little lower. Whether it reverses or not, you still have the natural variation.”