Former Australia captain Michael Clarke to call time on a remarkable career when he was just 34. Regarded as the best player of spin in the Australian team during his time, Clarke has since embarked upon a new career as a television pundit. He spoke about all things cricket during an exclusive chat with ToI on Tuedsay (September 19).
You have been a middle-order batsman all your life. Do you think there is a case for MS Dhoni to bat higher up the order?
He can bat wherever he likes. If the Indian team feels he needs to bat at No. 4 or No. 5 or No. 6, I don’t think he will have any problem. I don’t think India need to change anything right now.
What are the challenges of batting at No. 4 as opposed to coming in at No. 6 or 7?
In a 50-over game, it doesn’t matter what position you are in. What matters is the match situation and how many overs are left. He assessed the situation very well in Chennai and batted beautifully.
If you were the Indian captain where would you bat Dhoni, keeping in mind the 2019 World Cup?
I would prefer to have Dhoni batting at No. 5. With Virat Kohli at No. 3 and Dhoni at No. 5, the youngsters in the team can bat around them. In my book Dhoni is one of the best middle-order players to have played one-day cricket.He knows how to read an innings, sums up the conditions and sets up the game, or wins it for his team. How many times have we seen him doing that? And let’s not forget that he is still the best wicket-keeper in the world.
You were regarded as the best player of spin in the Australian team. Are you amused by all the ‘spin talk’ in the ongoing ODI series?
I think most Australian players are not picking Kuldeep Yadav. Look, the key to play spin bowling is to pick which way the ball is going. The best way is to read it early from the bowler’s hand. There wasn’t one spinner I couldn’t pick out of their hand, Murali [Muttiah Muralitharan] and Warnie [Shane Warne] included. The idea is to keep watching the ball as closely as you can. As they say, you’ve got to see it to hit it.
How do you rate the current Indian team?
India are the No. 1 Test side in the world. They are a very good team. They have a huge opportunity as they are slated to play South Africa, England and Australia abroad over the next 15 months. If they win those three series, they will certainly rank as a great outfit – perhaps one of the best-ever Indian sides.
Do you agree that the shorter formats of the game have adversely affected Test cricket with so many top players opting out of the longest format?
I don’t quite agree. What is happening is a lot of senior players are opting out of the longer format at the back end of their careers. AB de Villiers has played over 100 Tests, JP Duminy too has been around for a while. I haven’t heard of a junior player who doesn’t want to play Test cricket. I think the shorter formats, including the T20 franchise leagues, have contributed enormously to the growth of the game. Without T20 cricket, we might not have seen a David Warner or a Hardik Pandya.