Chandigarh: The vice-captain of the Australian team Michael Clarke feels that combating India’s pace spearhead Zaheer Khan and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh will be a tough ask but they are up for it.
“Zaheer Khan is a wonderful bowler with the new ball and he can reverse it with the old ball. Harbhajan Singh too has had a lot of success in Test cricket, against Australia in particular. Both are probably two of India’s best bowlers who have had the experience of playing a lot against Australia,” Clarke stated during a group interaction with the media at the team hotel here today.
“We have to come up with a plan to combat these two,” Clarke said.
The visitors will play against the Board President’s XI in their tour opener at the Sector-16 stadium, in Chandigarh, from Saturday.
All-rounder Shane Watson, who was also present during the group interaction also praised the Zaheer-Harbhajan duo. He said, “It is always the hardest thing facing the new ball that swings. It had a huge impact on (an earlier) series (with India).”
“Harbhajan is a brilliant exponent of spin bowling,” Watson said.
Clarke, who has scored 4514 runs from 62 Tests at an average of 50.71, admitted that it was always a challenge to play against India on their home soil and more so when the visitors had a few inexperienced players in the squad.
“We know it’s going to be a tough challenge. India is a strong team, but if we can play our best cricket, we can beat them in the series,” Clarke said.
However, it is the heavy rains that has robbed the Aussies from some serious match practice and has been bothering their coach Tim Nielsen.
“Sun came out after massive rain last night..120mm o’night! Got in to the nets even if only indoors but boys blew off some steam..good to go!” Nielsen wrote on his twitter page. The Australian coach also praised the Indian media after the group interaction with the Indian media.
“Open media session this afternoon..plenty of cameras and the boys enjoyed talking to Indian media..went really well.”
Asked if Indians will enjoy home advantage, Clarke said, “It is always hard to play against India, especially on their home soil. It’s hard to come here and enjoy success, but we need to play as best as we possibly can.”
The skipper feels that an extended stay here should help them get used to the conditions in a better manner.
Asked that the aura which used to be around the Australian team until recently was somehow missing this time as many greats including Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne having retired, Clarke said that every team goes through a phase of transition.
He also said that Australia would love to get back its No 1 ranking in Tests though they are not bothered too much about it.
With many youngsters in their current squad, Clarke feels that the tough tour is going to be a good learning curve for them.
Asked if he was preparing to step in the shoes of skipper Ricky Ponting any sooner, Clarke dismissed that Ponting had any plans of retirement in next couple of years.
“I dont think that will be the case. He will play lot longer than that. He is looking very fit, has been training hard and is quite excited about the cricket that lies ahead,” he said.
“The best of Ponting is yet to come,” he further said.
On his own game, Clarke feels that his shot selection has improved a lot over the years.
“I am trying to improve with every game,” he said.
On the fixing allegations involving some Pakistani team members, Clarke said, “It’s tough for the game at the moment.”
“But I think the game is in very good hands..the game of cricket has been in existence for a long time and has experienced such things in the past. I hope this time too it will get over it,” he said.
“At the moment, these are still allegations. But if these people are found guilty, then consequences need to be very strong against the individual players,” Clarke said referring to the three Pakistani players facing the allegations.
Meanwhile, for off-spinner Nathan Hauritz, Indian wickets are going to be ideal for him to show his skills after coming back from an injury.
“India have the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, (Rahul) Dravid,(VVS) Laxman, (Virender) Sehwag and (skipper M S) Dhoni. These guys play spin so well. I will just concentrate on bowling well to them,” said the spinner, who made his debut against India at Mumbai six years back.