Team is priority than records for unselfish Michael Clarke
Sydney: Michael Clarke had the chance to go past Sir Donald Bradman during his maiden unbeaten triple century in the second Test against India but the unselfish Australian captain said he wasn`t even thinking about surpassing the legend as team interest came first for him.
Clarke was well set on 329 and had Bradman and Mark Taylor`s highest innings of 334, within his grasp on a flat SCG wicket.
He also had the chance to challenge Brian Lara`s world record of unbeaten 400, but Clarke chose team over personal records when he declared Australia`s first innings at a mammoth 659 for four in reply to India`s paltry 191 all out in the ongoing second Test here.
"I didn`t think about it (Bradman and Taylor`s record). It wasn`t in my head," Clarke told reporters at the post-day`s press conference.
"If I had managed to pass it before we had a lead of 450, it would`ve been fantastic. All I wanted to do was to have a lead of 450 runs before I pull up stumps and get a couple of wickets tonight," he stated.
"I had spoken to (vice-captain Brad) Haddin during the lunch and we both felt it would be alright to declare closer to drinks. That would give us a crack for 40-odd overs.”
"It feels good (to score 300) but it hasn`t sunk in yet, until we win the Test. That`s why we all play and that`s what the goal is. I didn`t expect to score 300 runs in one innings."
Clarke scored 300 runs just after lunch on the third day of the ongoing match, registering only the 25th triple centurion in the history of Test cricket.
Clarke`s score is also the fourth highest score by an Australian in Test cricket, behind Matthew Hayden (380), Sir Donald Bradman (334) and Mark Taylor (334).
Only Bradman, Brian Lara, Virender Sehwag and Chris Gayle are the four batsmen who have hit triple century twice in Tests.
Clarke also joined Bradman (twice), Bob Simpson, Bob Cowper, Taylor and Matthew Hayden as the sixth Australian to achieve the feat. His triple century came off 432 balls in 567 minutes and included 16 fours and a six.
"I haven`t batted for this amount of time in any form of the game, any team. Physically I felt good. I felt fresh, my body felt in good position," the Aussie skipper said.
"It`s that mental application (which is enormous). The concentration which is required. There are a lot of starts and stops, drinks break, restarting after lunch, starting again the next day - these are the toughest part of it."
Australia are in the driver`s seat in the match with India facing the prospect of another humiliating defeat after the visitors ended day three still trailing by 354 runs in the first innings.
At stumps, India were 114 for two in their second innings with Gautam Gambhir (68) and Sachin Tendulkar (8) leading the fight after the dismissal of Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid.
But Clarke was of the view that his bowlers will have dig deep to bowl out the experienced Indian batting line-up on a flat SCG pitch in the remaining two days of the match.
"It`s going to be a challenge. There`s not much there for the bowlers. There`s no real swing, no reverse swing, not much spin either. There are going to be a lot of overs, we need to be accurate and hang on to our chances over the next two days," he said.
"India is a very good batting team, the wicket is flat." Clarke also expressed gratitude to his predecessor, Ricky Ponting, who according to him "opened his eyes for leadership".
"I learnt a lot as a vice-captain. I learnt from him (Ponting) about leadership, and the captaincy off the field that opened my eyes for leadership," he said.
"I`ve enjoyed this challenge, honour and privilege and there`s a lot which goes with it. Playing good cricket and having some success as a leader makes life a lot easier.”
"Ultimately, it`s all about respect, the respect of the public that`s what I always wanted, that`s what I bat for. As an Australian captain, respect is what you ask for."
Clarke also defended his deputy and wicket-keeper Brad Hadding, who spilled a simple chance off Gautam Gambhir in the second last over of the day from James Pattinson.
"As the wicket had become slow, Haddin was standing a lot closer. It came too quickly. From outside, it looks a lot easier than they generally are. But it happens in cricket," he said.
Michael Hussey, who remained unconquered on 150 and together with Clarke stitched unbeaten 334 runs for the fifth wicket, said he was never bothered about his poor form leading up to the series against India.
"I am pretty good in my preparation and in my mind. The exterior things don`t matter. You need to enjoy the good day because there are a lot of bad days in cricket," he said.
In what can be seen a friendly banter, Hussey said now that Clarke has cracked a triple century in Tests, he should graduate from being `pup` of the team to `dog`.
But Clarke quickly took over and said he has been named far worse than this during his career.
"But I hope it doesn`t become headlines tomorrow."