Clarke surprised by Kohli’s decision to skip Afghan Test

Former Australia skipper Michael Clarke feels a Test match should be the first priority, but he also understands Virat Kohli’s hunger to prepare for the England tour better through the county stint.

Clarke also backed Kohli’s decision to turn up for county cricket and said it will send a clear message about his goal to win in England.   -  PTI

Surprised by Virat Kohli’s decision to skip the Afghanistan Test, Australia’s World Cup winning captain Michael Clarke feels the Indian skipper should fly back from Surrey to play the historic one-off Test in Bengaluru.

The Indian captain has decided to give the landmark June 14-18 Test a miss to prepare for the England tour by playing for Surrey in the County Championship, a decision that has evoked mixed response.

In an interactive session with cricket historian Boria Majumdar, Clarke said he always prioritised playing Test cricket, irrespective of the opposition.

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“I’m really surprised... I don’t know why, it’s Virat’s choice. I think a Test match is a Test match. I don’t care who we play against. It has to be your number one priority,” Clarke said at the session organised by the Indian Chambers of Commerce.

“To represent your country is the most special feeling in the world. I would like to see him fly back and play the Test, a bit of gap in the schedule which can allow him to do that,” Clarke added.

Kohli had an unforgettable England sojourn in 2014, making only 134 runs in five Tests at an average of 13.4.

Clarke, however, backed Kohli’s decision to turn up for county cricket and said it will send a clear message about his goal to win in England.

“Definitely it’s fantastic preparation and it shows his determination and how hungry he is to perform individually and how much he wants India to be successful.

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“It’s sending a clear message to his teammates and England that he wants to have a successful tour of UK. He wants to win that series,” Clarke said.

India will end the year touring Down Under where they have never won a Test series and Kohli and Co. have made their intentions clear with the BCCI ruling out a day-night Test at the Adelaide Oval.

“Remember India have never beaten Australia in Australia. This is their chance and that’s exactly what Kohli, Ravi Shastri and all in Indian cricket would be thinking,” Clarke said.

Clarke reasoned that the wickets are flatter and spin-oriented at day while at night, there’s no spin but a bit more movement with moisture around.

“They prefer to take their chances during the day. I can understand why they do not want to play D/N Test. But to get more people watching on television we are going to see a lot more D/N matches moving forward.”

Dhoni, crucial for World Cup 2019

Clarke sees 2011-winning skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni as a crucial member of the 2019 World Cup-bound squad and termed the Kohli-led side as the overwhelming favourites.

“I know Virat Kohli well enough. He’s not going to that World Cup to come second. No chance in the world, you come second then you must forget the World Cup. He’s going there for one goal and for one reason and that’s winning the World Cup. They have so many match winners.

“You have got the experience. That’s why I feel Dhoni has to be part of that world cup squad. He’s been there before. You have got a good mix of youth and experience. The key to their success would be the preparation leading up to the World Cup.”

Citing the example of the ongoing IPL where, barring Kane Williamson, seven other franchises have Indian captains, Clarke said India have great depth in their squad.

“That’s an unbelievable advantage and a great position for Indian team. That’s what makes the best team in the world. Virat would love the fact that half of his team captained an IPL franchise.”

Recollecting his own experience of winning the 2015 World Cup at home, Clarke revealed that they targeted Brendon McCullum and planned to bowl him yorkers in their match-eve team meeting.

The strategy had worked as the explosive New Zealand opener was cleaned up by Mitchell Starc for a duck. The Kiwis folded for 183 and Australia sealed an easy seven-wicket win.

“We planned that wherever he bats, every single ball to him should be yorkers. We wanted to bowl at him like it’s the last five overs. Next day, Starc was with the new ball and asked, ‘skipper is the plan still the same?’ and I said yes. Fortunately, it worked,” he said.

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