Sydney: Drawing flak for his indifferent form in the World Cup so far, Australian skipper Michael Clarke today hit back at his critics, saying that his record in limited overs cricket is as good as anybody who has played the game.
Clarke, who has 7,897 runs from 243 ODIs, has managed to score only 135 runs from four innings in the ongoing World Cup after replacing vice-captain George Bailey, who scored a half-century in the Cup opener.
Asked about whether his inclusion to the side disrupted the balance, Clarke wasn't one bit amused while replying to the query.
"Everybody's entitled to their own opinion. I've played over 200 one-dayers now for Australia, and I think my record stacks up against just about anyone. So, yeah, for me it's about making sure I perform with the bat and also as captain of the team," Clarke said on the eve of his team's semi-final against India.
Asked how big the semi-final will be for him and his team, Clarke said, "I haven't thought too much about it to be honest, not like that anyway. I think I wrote in my column yesterday that it is as big as this event is to every cricketing nation and to the people that support the game.
"As a player, it's no different to any other game. I think you don't do yourself justice if your attitude changes because of the event."
The 33-year-old injury-ravaged batsman, who underwent a hamstring surgery in January, said he has given his all to the game and has left no stone unturned to be an asset for Australia.
"I think every time I've walked out on to the field as an Australian cricketer I've wanted to perform individually and help the team have success and that will be no different in this game. But really, it's no different. I can't try any harder. I can't train any harder. That won't help me have success."
Talking about the pitch, Clarke said it would provide an even contest between bat and ball.
"I think the SCG in general is a really good wicket. I think it's normally even for both batting and bowling. So I think the fast bowlers will hopefully get a little swing and a little bounce out of that wicket," Clarke said.
"Then as always I think spin will play a part at the SCG, but it's generally as good a place to bat as anywhere in the world. India have a very good bowling lineup. They have a good mixture of spin and fast bowling."
David Warner, one of the most vocal Aussie cricketers and the leader of their sledging unit is one act of indiscipline away from being suspended but Clarke is hardly perturbed.
Asked if he has noticed any difference in Warner's behavioural pattern, Clarke replied, "I haven't noticed one bit of difference in David."
Is Warner being on a warning concern him, Clarke was terse in his reply, "David will be fine. He knows the rules, as we all do, and his rules are no different than the rest of ours."
The skipper said his team is now ready to absorb all the pressure as it has shown against Pakistan.
"I think we're about to find out. The way the guys handled pressure throughout the tournament has been extremely pleasing. Expectations are there from us because we're the No. 1 ranked ODI team in the world," Clarke said.
"The reason you have that expectation on you is because you've performed. But there is no greater expectation than what you put on yourself. You want to perform at the highest level. You want to perform against the best."
Will the Indian fans outnumbering the Aussies in the stands worry Clarke?
"I think it's a no-brainer. I think we know they will."
Queried if he found the current field restriction with only four fielders outside the circle rule to be Draconian, Clarke said, "Can you ask me that question in a week's time? I think our game has changed because the conditions have changed."
"So the Australian team has been able to adapt to the new conditions, as I think all the teams around the world have that we've seen throughout this tournament. There are probably a couple things that I'd like to see change, but I don't think now is the right time to talk about those," he said.
Clarke also said that his style of captaincy is to attack irrespective of match situation.
"I think that's been my mindset in any form of the game, Test Cricket, T20 cricket and ODIs. I think my captaincy style is bowling opposition teams out, and when you bat scoring runs. People say bat for time. I say bat for runs.
"If you make runs, hopefully you can spend the whole day there making them. So I think that's probably more my style in the game than allowing it to dictate itself. Yeah, we play our best when we're trying to bowl opposition teams out."
Clarke was not ready to give an inch when asked as to what difference does he find in the Indian team compared to tri-series.
"They look exactly the same to me. They're just playing some really good cricket. I think that's probably the most important message of this great game. It doesn't necessarily matter who the person is that's bowling the ball. That's actually irrelevant," he asserted.
"It's about seeing that white ball and adapting to what comes out of that hand. Doesn't matter if it's Mitchell Johnson running in or Dale Steyn or Shane Warne."
Clarke said that his team knows India inside out.
"We do enough work to make sure we know our opposition really well. We've played a lot of cricket against India. We know their strengths. We know their weaknesses, and we know they're a very good team.
"We have to execute our skills as well as we possibly can, and if we do that, I have confidence that we can beat any team we play against," he said.