Australian batsman Michael Clarke will put all friendships aside Sunday when he lines up against the defending champion West Indies in the ICC Champions Trophy final.
Clarke counts West Indies skipper Brian Lara and fellow batsman Chris Gayle among his close friends, but sentimentality will be pushed aside if Australia is to win its first Champions Trophy limited-overs cricket title.
"He's (Lara) been a great friend of mine. Obviously you don't want him to get too many runs, but while he's batting you can watch and learn how he goes about his job," Clarke said Friday. Lara provided valuable support to Clarke when he was dropped from the Australian team during last year's Test series against the West Indies after posting poor scores of 5, 14 and 5 in the first two matches at Brisbane and Hobart.
"He was very supportive and told me 'now you have been dropped, it's important you go back to first class cricket and make sure you stand up and be counted, make sure you are the one who is scoring as many runs as you can and not getting starts, not getting 50s and 70s but scoring big hundreds and selectors have to re-pick you,"' Clarke said.
Gayle smashed his third century of the tournament Thursday when his unbeaten 133-run knock helped the West Indies to a six-wicket semifinals win over South Africa.
"Chris (Gayle) and I get along very well," Clarke said. "I've known Chris since I was 18 when I met him at the Australian Cricket Academy.
"He played brilliant last night," he said. "He's been in great nick and I look forward to the final."
Inspired by fast bowler Jerome Taylor's hat-trick, the West Indies has already defeated Australia in the Champions Trophy preliminary round at Brabourne Stadium, the venue for Sunday's final.
"After losing the first game we knew it will going to be a tough run," Clarke said. "We knew we had to play very good cricket to end up where we are now and I think we have done that." Clarke said he had not thought about the opponents in the final but his world champion side concentrated on its own plans how to win the win the Champions Trophy.
"It didn't bother me at all who we'd play in the final once Australia got there," said Clarke, who has scored 63 runs in four matches this tournament.
"It's a pretty big tournament, hopefully we will play better than the West Indies and win the final."
Clarke hopes a strong Champions Trophy performance has helped push his case for reinstatement to the Australian test side for the Ashes series against England starting at Brisbane on Nov 23, but he conceded it's tough to make a comeback in the current Australian team.
"It's probably tough now because you want to be part of both teams and unfortunately only 11 guys can play at a time in the Test team and one-day team," said Clarke, who next week represents New South Wales in a three-day warmup game against England. "I guess to me it's about making the most of any opportunity I get. I'm looking forward to batting there (against England) and hopefully get some runs there and selectors would give me chance in Test matches."
Clarke has scored 2625 runs in 90 one-day internationals and has made 1123 runs in 22 Test matches.