Chennai: Australian captain Michael Clarke on Friday sought to play mind-games ahead of the high-profile Test series against India, saying that opener Gautam Gambhir's omission from the Test squad has come as a happy news for his bowlers. Clarke said he expected a batsman of Gambhir's calibre to be in the team and India will badly miss his experience.
"I expected him (Gambhir) to be in the Test team. He is a wonderful player and has played for India for a long time now. I think there are a few bowlers in our team who are happy he is not playing," the Australian captain told the reporters on the eve of their second and final warm-up game against Gambhir-led India A.
Terming Gambhir as a "wonderful guy", Clarke hoped that the left-hander will hit the straps soon and get back into the national reckoning. "He is a wonderful guy and I really like him and I get along really well with him. If he scores runs, I'm sure he will get his chance with the Indian team again," he said.
Australian teams over the years have been known to start mind-games prior to the series, which Steve Waugh had once famously termed as "mental disintegration" of the opponents but Clarke believes that the game is about on-field performances and not making statements. "It's not about what you say. It's about what you do. As a player, as the Australian cricket team, that's our goal. It's no good making statements and comments and not backing them up. I'd rather want people to say less and do more, so that's our goal. Perform well on the field, that's all we want."
Asked about his role in leading the batting line-up against a superior Indian spin attack, Clarke replied that success can never be guaranteed but he and his colleagues have trained hard to atleast have a shot at success. "Reputation is irrelevant, to be honest, especially when its my reputation. I start on zero like everybody else. My last tour to India wasn't anywhere near as successful as I would have liked. I really enjoy the challenge of facing spin but it still gets me out, like it does every player. I'll tick every box off the field in terms of preparation and training and then I will go in and enjoy myself."
Questioned whether he has done an analysis of strengths and weakenesses of his team as well as his opponents, Clarke went on the defensive. "Australian team has no weaknesses at all (Laughs). I don't think it will be right for me to sit here and tell you what the Australian team's strengths and weaknesses are and I don't think it will be fair to give you the Indian team's strengths and weaknesses either. We have to be really focussed just on us and on the areas we need to get better at and not worry too much about our opposition."
Although he admitted that the current Australian team doesn't have too much experience like it had few years back but the focus will be on performing as a team. "When you look at the team now compared to when I first came in, we had so many experienced players, so many great players; probably seven or eight players in the team when I made my debut were as good as any seven or eight players in the world. We are a lot less experienced now. Yes, every one of us has the same goals, the same commitment, the same work ethic. We know that to be successful, we need to perform well as a team. It's not about individuals making a hundred or a two hundred or taking five wickets. That's not going to give us the success we want over a long period."
Clarke and dashing opener David Warner won't be playing in the game tomorrow as they are recuperating from their respective injuries. "I do have a team for tomorrow: Cowan, Watson, Hughes, Khawaja, Henriques, Wade, Siddle, Starc, Lyon, Doherty and Agar," Clarke informed unlike the India A team coach who was non-committal about his playing XI. The reason for skipping this game is that David Warner and I were injured prior to coming here and it's in the best interests of the team and us as individuals that we continue to do our work off the field. We're going to use these three days to make sure we are prepared for the first day of the Test match."
From the next-best thing in Australian cricket to the leader of the team, on how own admission, he has evolved as a cricketer. "I guess some good times, when the team has had a lot of success and I have scored some runs, and some tough times, when I have been dropped from the Test team and I didn't know if I was going to get back into the team. Now the positive is that the team is playing well and I am able to captain Australia.
"So there have been plenty of ups and downs through my career some moments that I will cherish forever and some moments in my career that have made me the player I am today. When I was dropped from the Australian Test team, without going through what I went through at the time, I don't think I would be the player that I am today," was his forthright assessment.
The 31-year-old is of the opinion that as a senior player, one needs to protect the juniors and take additional burden. "Being a senior player, not just the captain, it is part of your responsibility. As you get older, as you play more cricket, the responsibility is on some of us who have played a lot of Test cricket to stand up and lead from the front, make sure the youngsters are taken along."