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January 2, 2012
Michael Clarke once said he would play cricket every day of the year if he could do so at the SCG. Though he did not make the all-time Australian XI compiled to mark the SCG's 100th Test, Clarke's story and technique are steeped in the history of the ground. His feet dance in accordance with the assistance on offer to the best spin bowlers, and his use of the crease both forward and back was fostered by the variety of fast and slow men who tried their luck on a surface with more subcontinental echoes than any other in Australia.
With this in mind, it is fitting that Clarke will lead Australia in the second Test against India, on a ground where he made his name and then enhanced it with strong showings as both a batsman and an occasional left-arm orthodox bowler. Intriguingly Clarke's record in Tests is curiously muted, having made only one century, against South Africa in 2009. But his love of the place is clear.
"I know we love playing here, I know I love playing here," Clarke said. "It's a great ground, it's my favourite to play and we've had a lot of success here at the SCG, so we're confident walking out onto that ground. It doesn't guarantee anything, but we're playing in front of our home crowd, for a lot of the guys it's their home ground as New South Welshmen and we're excited about this second Test match, it's a great time of year as well obviously to be playing Test cricket.
"It's nice to be playing at my home ground I guess and obviously the chance to captain Australia is very special in the 100th Test match here as well, so I think that will sink in over the next 24 hours. It's been quite a busy period from Melbourne, coming back here we've had a lot of stuff on, a lot of training, but over the next 24 hours I think the nerves will certainly kick in in regards to playing in another Test match at the SCG in front of my family and friends and now having the chance to captain here is certainly an honour and a privilege."
In his time at the SCG, Clarke has witnessed its character change from that of the slow turners of the 1990s into the more rounded, classical surface engineered by the curator Tom Parker in recent seasons. Those characteristics are in line with those loved by players of the 1950s and '60s, offering help to batsmen, quicks and spin bowlers in far more equal measure than when Clarke first visited.
SCG all-time XIs
"Conditions have probably changed a little bit over the last few years, no doubt the way I was brought up on this wicket it was spin conducive wasn't it," Clarke said. "I faced a lot of spin as a kid, I'd seen a fair bit of reverse swing at a young age and generally this wicket is a little bit slower than say Perth and Brisbane and what we've just seen in Melbourne.
"It encouraged me to move down the wicket to the spinners, no doubt, mainly because the ball spun so much and I wanted to get as close to it as I could before it spun too much. It's probably helped the way I play spin bowling, I've got to pay credit to the SCG.
"But the last couple of years it's quickened up a bit, there's been enough there for the bowlers, swing and seam and you need to try and adapt to that, but I think it certainly feels like my home ground. The way I play I guess is very similar to the conditions I've faced, from an 18-year-old boy until only until the last couple of years it's probably changed."
A panel comprising Jim Maxwell, Mike Coward, Phil Derriman, Gideon Haigh, Phil Wilkins, Malcolm Conn, Warwick Franks, Andrew Leeming, Malcolm Knox, and the SCG Trust chairman Rodney Cavalier, selected Australia and World teams from those who have graced the ground over its 100 Tests. Three men about to play in this match, Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, were chosen in the teams.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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