Michael Clarke: India were not over-aggressive, they just la
He may not be playing but he is still very much the talk in Melbourne. Australian skipper Michael Clarke, currently undergoing rehabilitation post his hamstring surgery, will be in the commentary box at the MCG on Boxing Day. Looking forward to his new role while missing being on the park, Clarke spoke to Boria Majumdar about his determination to get fit in time for the ICC Cricket World Cup, Steve Smith as Australia's Test captain, the significance of the Boxing Day Test, Virat Kohli as the future Indian Test captain and other issues. Excerpts from the conversation, part one:
You come to Melbourne with a very different duty this time round- doing commentary for the Boxing Day Test. Are you excited and how are you looking at being in the commentary box with some of the games greats?
Let me first say, I would have loved to be out in the park playing for Australia. Having said that I am grateful to Nine Network for giving me the opportunity to commentate. There's no doubt I am excited by this opportunity of telling the viewers about my teammates, what their thought processes are, what they are planning and get the audience a little closer to the Australian team. The Boxing Day Test is a very special occasion and if I am not able to play I'd definitely want to commentate and be a part of the occasion.
Australia is already 2-0 up in the series and have played well in the moments that really matter. Is the team getting back to its best?
I think the boys have played really well. We have performed as a team and now have the momentum to go ahead and close the series. India too has done well in patches and at these times has shown how good a team they can be. This is why we can't let up in intensity and need to be at our best at all times in this series. Except Mitchell Marsh who is out injured, all of my teammates are fit and that will add to the teams strength at the MCG. Ryan Harris is fit and I am also looking forward to seeing Joe Burns in action. Test cricket is about winning sessions and playing the big moments well and there's no doubt we have been able to do that in this series so far.
There's a debate going on that the Indians have been over aggressive in the last two Test matches and have suffered as a result. For example it is being said that the Indians should not have sledged at Mitchell Johnson for it got him fired up and pushed him to performing better after a lean match at the Adelaide Oval. Your thoughts?
I don't think the Indians have crossed the line. They have tried to play good hard cricket and both teams have come hard at each other. At Adelaide both teams matched each other on the pitch and in words and I don't see that as a problem. It is not about words. Rather, it is about how good you play in the key moments of the match. That's where the Indians have been second best so far. I don't think they have been over aggressive and that has affected their performance. It is a hard game out there and both teams are doing their best to outdo each other. It is only natural a few words will be said. As long as the players don't cross the line it is perfectly fine. On the other hand if they do cross the line they will surely be penalised for it.
A word on Steve Smith please. It could not have been easy to step up to the challenge at such short notice especially with you out injured. But Steve has done very well so far hasn't he?
Indeed he has. He captained very well in Brisbane and has stepped up really well. He has been in tremendous form of late and that has surely helped him come to terms with the job at hand. When you are playing at your best it gives you a lot of confidence and Steve has been able to make the most of the exceptional form he has been in.
A few of the Australian player - Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin haven't been in the best of form. Do you think they need to be persisted with and it is only a matter of time before they start to contribute again?
I have absolutely no doubt that's the case. I have already written in my column that each of these players bring a lot to the team and I'd really want each of them to be on the plane when we travel to England to play the Ashes series next summer. All of them have done great things for Australia in the past and these few failures should take nothing away from their achievements.
Finally, how do you look at the rest of this series? Do you see the Indians coming back or do you think the Australians now have the momentum and are in line for yet another whitewash after 2011-2012?
It is Test cricket of the very highest quality and you don't make predictions mate. Having said that we do have the momentum and we have played very good cricket as a team so far in this series. Even when India was playing well, we were very much in the game and never let the game go away from us. That's very important in a closely contested Test match. India does have huge potential in this team. Virat Kohli, Vijay, Rahane etc have already shown they can do well in Australia. For them it is important to click as a collective. If they can do so at the MCG, there's no reason why they can't make a comeback in the series. On the other hand for the Australians it is a very important Test match having taken a 2-0 lead. We will not want to allow the Indians to make a comeback and must ensure that we play at our very best in the Boxing Day and New Year Tests.