The words of Michael Clarke would be sweet music to the ears of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his team. Despite dominating the Indians in the Test series and Tri-series, the Aussie captain still rates them as a dangerous outfit and ranks them as one of the toughest in the Cricket World Cup, set to begin on Valentine’s Day.
On a day when the Indian team reassembled in Adelaide after a week’s break, Clarke addressed the media, his first as the home team captain for the World Cup. He had nothing but generous and encouraging words for Dhoni’s leadership and India’s prospects in the mega-event.
“MS Dhoni is a wonderful player, a proven match-winner. The Indian team has always been successful under his leadership. They will look at the World Cup as a fresh start. As they have always done well in big tournaments, they will take confidence from that. I think, once the tournament begins, India will be one of the toughest teams,” the Australian captain, who is battling to be fit for the World Cup after a recent hamstring surgery, said.
“They have a couple of warmup matches to gear up for the big game. India have gifted players who are bound to come good.Their long stay here is not going to be a disadvantage. Their time in Australia and playing in these conditions will help them despite not having won matches so far,” Clarke said.
He was asked if being away from home for a long period of time would make the Indian players homesick and affect their performance. The skipper disagreed.
“No doubt they have been away from home for a long time. But visiting different places around the world can be refreshing. Australia is a fantastic country. But if they are missing home, these days you can bring over wives, kids, friends, partners, whoever to spend some quality time with them. There are many ways to fill in your time these days. So, that should not be an issue,” he said.
“As I have said, once the tournament starts, with all the talent and experience they have, they will be among the toughest teams to beat,” Clarke added as he talked up India’s chances.
On his recovery, Clarke said that he is bound by the advice of Cricket Australia’s medical team. Given his current pace of recovery, does he give himself any chance of being fit for Australia’s opener against England at the MCG next Saturday? He chose not to speculate.
“I think you should ask that question to the medical staff,” he said.
“I don’t know the answer to that question. I’ve been following their guidelines since day one and I’m extremely grateful and thankful that I sit in this position now because of their advice and guidance, so I will 100 % be dictated by what they feel and believe.
“The gap between me playing Thursday for the CA XI and me walking out and playing a OneDay International – there’s still a gap there. But I’ll close that with the work I do off the field and then once I set foot on the ground I don’t hold anything back. I give it 100% and I back the work I’ve done.”
His appearance at the media conference also put to rest doubts over his role as captain. It is learnt that the Cricket Australia officials are firmly behind him to lead the team when he returns for Australia’s second match on February 21.
With India playing their first match on 15th Feburary against Pakistan it is important for team India to start on a winning note.