Team is inexperienced but potent: Clarke
Michael Clarke has some happy memories of India. In 2004, he came here as a 23-year-old and announced himself to the world. He made his Test debut in Bangalore and scored 151. He then went to Mumbai and returned with career-best bowling figures of six for nine.
Now Clarke is back in India, as captain of the Australian team. He is older, wiser and shoulders more responsibilities than ever before. But what hasn’t changed is Clarke’s excitement to play Test cricket in India.
“It's always exciting to come here and I've always enjoyed playing in India. The Indians love the game and appreciate good, competitive cricket,” Clarke said. “For me, there hasn't been much of a change. It was the same in 2004 and it's exactly the same now as captain. India is a special place for me and that's because I made my Test debut here. I suppose it's more special to come back here as the captain.
Clarke has reinvented himself as a batsman ever since he has taken up the onus of captaincy. He said he is enjoying the role of leading the team on the whole as well as playing mentor to his young teammates.
“As you grow older and play more cricket, you're supposed to take more responsibility, and being a senior player I love to do that. I was lucky to have so many senior players around to help me. And now I'm playing a similar role helping the young guys.
“Each of them know that they can knock on my door or ring me any time they want to. That freedom is really important,” Clarke said, admitting that the current team is light on experience given the recent retirements of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey.
“This team is less experienced. During my first tour we had so many experienced players and undoubtedly seven or eight of them were world's best cricketers. The current side has a lot of potential, but we'll have to go miles before we are compared with that team.”
The India-Australia rivalry has strengthened since the historic 2001 Test series in India. The Indians have time and again stood up to the Australian challenge – both on and off the field. Verbal battles have ensued before every series between the two sides. This time, however, no such off-pitch aggression has been seen from either team.
While this has got to do with the fact that both India and Australia are going through a transitional phase and are aware of their frailties, the men leading both countries like to reserve their aggression for the field, with bat and ball in hand.
“It's not about what you say. It's about what you do,” Clarke said. “As a player, as the Australian cricket team, that's our goal. It's no good making statements and comments and not backing them up. I'd rather want people to say less and do more. So that's our goal. Perform well on the field, that's all we want.”
Clarke also felt that the advent of the IPL has lessened animosity between players of different nations. “The Indian Premier League has also been fantastic in that it has built relationships between players all around the world, but especially Indian and Australian players. There are so many players in the Indian team that I get along really well with, that I am friends with,” the Australian captain said.