During his first interaction since arriving in India, Michael Clarke was asked if this Australia team lacked aggro, the integral part of their sporting culture. For, there have been no pre-series salvos or mental games from the Aussies ahead of the series against India.
In fact, Clarke’s captaincy is the reverse of Steve Waugh’s much-touted ‘mental disintegration’, which focused on demoralising the opponents. Waugh, and later Ricky Ponting, never missed an opportunity to indulge in mind games and try and get upper hand.
Clarke, however, can't afford to do so on this tour. The team that he is leading does not possess the experience, or reputation, to toss around the remarks about the opposition. And, quite clearly, the Aussies are staying clear of ruffling Indian feathers. “It’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do… as a player, as the Australia cricket team, that's our goal. It's no good making statements and comments and not backing them up. I’d rather let people say less and do more, so that’s our goal. Perform well on the field, that’s all we say,” said Clarke.
Unlike the previous Australian teams of 2001 or 2004 that travelled to India, Clarke does not have the luxury of leading the team full of legends. While he himself is on his way to be one of the greats, many in the current setup are still finding their feet. “We need everyone in the team to be performing consistently for us to be the number one team in the world. Because we don't have great individuals right now, like when I first played for Australia," he added.
In fact, with just a week left for the series to commence, the captain's dilemma is to find his best eleven for the first Test. And the final three-day warm-up game against India 'A', starting on Saturday at the Guru Nanak College ground, is his last chance to get the best combination. While Clarke, recovering from a hamstring injury, and opener David Warner (thumb injury) will not feature in the match, the Aussies will be desperate to get the maximum out of the practice game.
Ashton Agar surprise
Clarke announced the playing eleven a day before the game, and sprung a surprise by including Ashton Agar. The 19-year-old left-arm spinner was brought to India only as part of the development programme and to bowl at the nets, but after a week finds himself in the reckoning for the first Test.
Agar has only played two matches for his state side, Western Australia, but apparently impressed the team management during the match against the Board President’s XI. Clarke did not rule out the possibility of Agar making a fairytale Test debut. “Ash is staying with the team for this match and we will assess things after that. We will use this match to help us in selecting the best eleven," he said.
The surface at the M Chidambaram Stadium, the venue for the first Test, will favour the spinners and Aussies are also exploring the possibility of playing two seamers, two pacers and a pace-bowling all-rounder. Moises Henriques, who picked up four wickets against President's XI will play on Saturday, and another good show might give him a Test debut.