Michael Clarke has taken aim at Australia’s preparation for the upcoming four-Test series in India, saying he doesn’t understand why the team has opted against playing a practice match to prepare for the tricky Indian conditions.
Speaking on Big Sports Breakfast on Tuesday, the cricket great foresaw the lack of a practice match in India would be “significant” for Australia’s batters in particular, given the natural variation of the wickets on the subcontinent.
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“That’s the part I don’t understand,” Clarke said.
“The no tour game before the first Test in India. I hope I’m proven wrong but I think that is going to be significant. Batting in those conditions in one-day cricket and T20 cricket is one thing, batting in Indian conditions in Test cricket it is a completely different game.
“You need a completely different plan to what you have playing in Australia, the way you start your innings against spin bowling, the way you play reverse swing, through the Australian summer we didn’t see any reverse swing, the games were over in two, three days.
“So reverse swing is going to play a big part (in India), all these batters that walk out and play bowlers bowling 130-140ks – there’s every chance India is going to play at least two spinners, so it’s a completely different game.”
It is understood Australia’s Test team will fly to India midway through next week, giving them just a few days to prepare before the Border-Gavaskar series which gets underway on February 9 in Nagpur.
Clarke suggested it simply wouldn’t be enough time for Australia’s batters to prepare.
“You need to bat in the best possible conditions (in India) because after that, if you haven’t grown up playing in those conditions, man it’s extremely difficult to start your innings,” Clarke said on Tuesday.
“And if you get in you need to go on and make a big score because your first 20 runs in India in second innings, whoa, a ball that you go forward to and block in Australia easily against spin, over there can roll along the ground, can bounce and take your glove.
“You can go to block it outside off and it bowls you leg stump, natural variation over there is massive.”
However Australia coach Andrew McDonald seemed confident about his side’s ability to adapt to the conditions, explaining the decision to not play a tour game was made to preserve the players’ physical and mental wellbeing for the tour which, for some players, runs until the third and final ODI on March 22.
“No tour game is something we’ve done in the last few series, before embarking on overseas tours,” McDonald told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“We feel as though we don’t need that match practice as such. We’re going to go to India about a week out from the first game. We didn’t want to press for too much longer, in terms of the preparation.
“We feel as though seven days is ample time to get ready and to make sure we maintain freshness throughout the whole four Test match series.”
McDonald explained that his team would be “creative” in the way they prepared for the Tests against India in the coming days.
“We’ve done it before with the Pakistan build-up in Melbourne. Dusting up wickets,” he said.
“Working with the local groundsmen who really help us in and around the country.
“We feel as though we can get as close to that as possible without necessarily having a practice game.”
Speaking to news.com.au at the premiere of the second season of the Amazon documentary The Test, Steve Smith backed McDonald’s stance, saying he actually “quite likes the no (tour) games”.
“The last couple of times we’ve been there, (the tour games) have actually been green wickets, it’s kind of irrelevant practice,” Smith said.
“We’ve been able to control our training the way we want to.
“Sometimes at the back end of those tours it can be quite draining, so if you’ve got the extra game on top, it can take it out of you at the back end.
“We’ve got four hard Test matches there, India are an unbelievable side at home, but it’s going to be a great series.”
The highly-anticipated Australia v India series was supposed to be Clarke’s return to the commentary box after he was lined up by the Board for Cricket Control in India (BCCI) to be the Australian voice of the global commentary feed alongside Matthew Hayden.
However his position in the commentary booth was thrown into doubt by his recent caught-on-camera altercation with girlfriend Jade Yarbrough.
It’s now been reported Clarke is likely to be dumped from the six-figure role in favour of fellow Aussie great Mark Waugh, with the BCCI notoriously ‘fickle’ with its appointments for commentary positions.
It’s not all bad news for Clarke though with the former batting great telling Big Sports Breakfast on Monday that he had been sounded out for a commentary gig during the Pakistan Super League, which also starts February 9 and runs until March 19.
“I’ve just been asked to commentate on the PSL, the Pakistan Premier League, and you should see the internationals they’ve got,” Clarke said.
“So many overseas players are going and playing in that tournament.”
The PSL is set to feature the likes of Aussie stars including Tim David, Andrew Tye and Matthew Wade, and international stars like Rashid Khan, Alex Hales, James Vince, Harry Brook, Martin Guptill and Colin Munro among others alongside Pakistani stars such as Babar Azam, Haris Rauf and Shaheen Shah Afridi.
The new role would certainly soften the blow for Clarke, who had a prospective sponsorship deal with a skincare brand reportedly get ripped up within hours of the footage of his altercation being published on Wednesday evening.
However, there have been plenty of supporters of the former Aussie skipper, including Tabcorp, owners of Sky Sports Radio, who have stood by Clarke.
While Clarke was expected to address his side of the drama on his return to breakfast radio on Monday, host Gerard Middleton quickly pushed his scandal to one site at the beginning of the show.
“Now of course enormous fascination into Clarkey’s life and we are just hitting this on the head straight away,” Middleton said.
“It is a private matter that Clarkey’s obviously been dealing with, a very, very private matter which unfortunately was made public.
“There’s a lot of factors in play here and Clarkey’s made his statement last week and due to all the factors in play we are moving forward on The Big Sports Breakfast this morning.”
In a statement issued to The Daily Telegraph last Wednesday night, Clarke said he accepted “full” responsibility for the altercation and was “shattered” by his actions.
“I’m absolutely gutted I’ve put people I hold in the highest regard in this position. My actions in the lead-up to this altercation were nothing short of shameful and regrettable,” he said.
“I am shattered that because of my actions I’ve drawn women of class and integrity, and my mates, into this situation.
“I own this fully and am the only one at fault.”