Top order needs to score big: Clarke
After their crushing defeats in Chennai and Hyderabad, Australian captain Michael Clarke chided his batsmen for failing to put up a respectable total in the first innings, and cited it to be the biggest reason behind their misery.
However, in the third Test, in Mohali, despite scoring a formidable 408 in the first innings, Australia ended up on the losing side. That, after the entire first day of the Test was washed out. While disappointed at having surrendered the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to India with a match to go, Clarke appreciated the constant improvement shown by his boys during this tour.
“Getting 400 in the first innings was a very good performance,” Clarke said at the post-match press conference. “That’s the one thing I’ve been talking about to the boys – when the wicket is at its best, we need to make the most of it. We know the second innings in the subcontinent is always extremely hard in regards to spin, variation and bounce,” he said.
Australia’s first innings total was, in no insignificant measure, possible due to a gritty 99-run knock from No.9 bat Mitchell Starc. While praising the youngster for his effort, Clarke demanded big runs from his top-order batsmen. Clarke felt that the contribution from the top five batsmen has been a major difference between the two teams in the series so far.
“A lot of credit to Mitchell Starc for the way he batted, but I’d like to see one of us in the top five make a big hundred,” said the Australian captain.
“That’s probably one major difference between us and India. They’re scoring a lot of hundreds and when they get there, they’re making big hundreds, whereas we’re scoring a lot of fifties. We need to continue to stay patient after getting to fifties and be disciplined.”
Clarke was referring to the 289-run opening partnership between Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay in this Test that gave India a crucial first-innings lead. While praising Dhawan for his majestic 187 on Test debut, Clarke said that his bowlers didn’t put their plans to action against the left-hander.
“We had our plans – we looked at a lot of Shikhar’s footage and we knew the way he played. He showed us that when the wicket is at its best and you play with good intent, you tend to score big runs. He played really well, especially given this was his Test debut and deserves a lot of credit.
“It wasn’t lack of plans or information on our part. I think we didn’t execute our skills as well as we needed to. He capitalised on a very good start and cashed in when he got in,” Clarke said.
As if going into the final Test of the series with a 0-3 deficit wasn’t bad enough, Australia are likely to miss their captain, who is by far their best batsman, in Delhi. Clarke’s recurring back problem surfaced during the Mohali Test, and as a result he had to slip down the batting order in the second innings.
“It’s pretty sore,” he said about the condition of his back. “I’ve got a few days before the next Test and I will spend as much time with Alex [Kountouris] as I can to get it right. It’s the same problem I’ve had since I was 17 years of age and I’ve tried to manage it through my career.
“So, the next four days will be no different to normal with my back. It will need plenty of treatment, listening to the expert and I’ll try to get it right in time for the next match.”
While the Australian captain vowed to do all he can to be available for the team in Delhi, he said that Shane Watson will lead the team if he fails to fix his back in time. Watson, who had flown home after the second Test for the birth of his first child, is on his way back to rejoin the team in India ahead of the fourth match.
“My fingers are crossed. I’ll be doing everything I can to give myself the best chance. Touchwood, I haven’t yet missed a Test match due to injury right through my career and I wouldn’t want this to be my first one. But if I can’t perform at my best and let my team down, I won’t be taking the field. I haven’t spoken to the selectors yet, but I’d imagine that Watto would be the captain if I am unable to play the Test,” he said.
Australia’s series loss is in perfect contrast to India’s 0-4 whitewash when they toured Down Under in 2011-12. While emphasising on the need to improve overseas as a team, Clarke highlighted the value of the experience his young team has garnered on this tour of India.
“We’re a very good and consistent team at home, but not when we tour. That’s an area about which we’ve been taking for a while now and we’ll continue to work hard on that. But as disappointing it is to have lost the series, the players individually and as a team we’ve learnt a lot. We’d love to go home with a win in the last Test in Delhi,” the Australian captain said.