‘Australia did well to adapt to Indian conditions’

“If you follow the tradition of Australian cricket, we, the Aussies, have always fought. I must congratulate Steve Smith and his team for such a gallant fight,” said Australia’s former captain Michael Clarke after India’s 2-1 win in a fiercely fought Test series.

Michael Clarke isn’t averse to a “bit of banter” on the cricket field. But he was quick to add that “players should not cross the discipline level”.   -  AFP

As a captain, Michael Clarke was unconventional. As a commentator, he advocates a simple way. Having observed the Test series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy from the vantage point of the commentary box, the former Australia captain sums up the contest as “a very interesting series”. The former captain, who oversaw a 4-0 defeat in Australia’s last tour of India in 2013, was heartened by the fight shown by Steve Smith’s men.

In a chat with Debasish Datta, Clarke opens up about his love for India, his childhood cricket coaches, Twenty20, and more.

Question: Will you be coming back to India to do commentary during the IPL?

Answer: I love India. Who knows? Talks are going on for that.

Did you expect such a hard fought series between India and Australia?

If you follow the tradition of Australian cricket, we, the Aussies, have always fought. I must congratulate Steve Smith and his team for such a gallant fight. India played well in the last two days of the series and they won by 2-1.

A lot of sledging took place in the series...

Lots of? A bit of banter is welcome. Everyone should realise that players should not cross the discipline level. No doubt it was a very interesting series. Australia had to adapt to the Indian conditions, and I must say that they did well in this respect. They did well even in the absence of their main bowler Mitchell Starc.

What about India?

My congratulations to them. They also did well and that’s why they won the series. India has been playing well under Virat Kohli’s captaincy in the last 12-15 months.

Jonty Rhodes has named his daughter India. Like Jonty you are also a big fan of India...

Yes, I cannot separate myself from India. In fact, I am deeply involved with India. How can I forget that I made my debut against India, and scored my first century against India? I scored the triple century [in 2011-12] which incidentally was my biggest score, also against India. So I grew up as an international cricketer where the influence of India was great.

Your childhood coach is also an Indian...

Oh yes, Neil D' Costa. I have been telling you that my India connection is too big. But initially, I learned my cricket from my dad John. In fact, dad is my first coach.

I have seen a picture in which you are fishing, sitting next to your dad...

Oh yes, we go out for fishing during our leisure time. We are pretty close to each other.

There is a video clipping in the Bradman museum at Adelaide Oval where you are hitting a golf ball with a stump like the legendary batsman...

Yes, such a video was done by Cricket Australia. I do not even have a copy of that. Are they showing that at the Adelaide Oval? I didn't know this.

How did you develop your batting?

After handing over a bat, my dad used to throw the ball towards me. He did not like that the ball would go over my head because I had to go back and collect the ball. So I tried to do my level best so that I need not go back and collect the same.

These are Bradman's words...he would have to go back a long distance if he missed the ball...

You cannot learn batting without Donald Bradman. He is the ultimate. He is the one and only.

Did you ever meet Bradman?

No, unfortunately not. But I played with Sachin Tendulkar. I saw him, I spoke to him. I shall have the regret of not meeting Bradman and Kerry Packer as well. But recently I met Kerry Packer's son, James.

Did you idolise any cricketer?

Not really. But I am a big fan of Sachin and Brian Lara.

Did you have any captain as a role model? For instance, Steve Waugh?

No doubt, Steve was a fantastic captain. But I learned the art of captaincy while playing. It came to me naturally.

Was Richie Benaud the best commentator?

I have no hesitation that Richie was the best. I have another regret here. I was not fortunate enough to do commentary sitting next to him.

Did you have any crash course before entering the commentary box?

No, not really. It is not the fact that I used to listen to the commentary regularly. Commentary is also an art. I try to follow a very simple way. What I see, I try to describe that exactly.

You did not play Twenty20 much. But you advocate Twenty20 now...

Please do not forget that I had to stay out [of cricket] for long because of my injury. And I had to concentrate a lot to score heavily in Tests. You cannot ignore Twenty20 now. Absolutely impossible. Ideally, we all should try to take the initiative so that all three formats of cricket would flourish.

What do you make of the absence of Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo from Tests these days?

They have played enough cricket. May be they are tired. Whatever energy they have in store, they might have reserved it for Twenty20.

But personally I would prefer the top cricketers to participate in all the three formats.

How do you like the idea of using a pink ball in Tests?

It’s a nice idea; a great initiative from the [International Cricket Council]. The popularity of Test cricket, in the bargain, would definitely be increased.