Australia in India 2010 September 28, 2010

Clarke wary of Harbhajan despite injury scare

Michael Clarke, the Australia vice-captain, has said his side was preparing for the best of Harbhajan Singh, despite reports of an injury scare for the India offspinner ahead of the first Test.

"I am very confident Harbhajan will play," Clarke said. "I saw him bowling yesterday after the end of day's play, and I know how much he loves playing against Australia. I will be very surprised if he doesn't play so I am going to be preparing like he is going to.

"But of course, if he doesn't play it's a huge plus for us. He's a very good bowler and he has had a lot of success against Australia."

Clarke also spoke about Harbhajan's carefree batting, which has hurt Australia on occasion. "If the first ball is there to be hit for four or six, Harbhajan will probably try and do that," Clarke said. "I think he is quite carefree in his batting. He just sees the ball and hits it. Batting lower down the order gives him the freedom to do that too... He has scored runs against Australia in the past, so we will have to plan to combat that."

Clarke said they will like to focus more on Harbhajan the bowler, and not the man who brings the confrontational aspect to India-Australia contests. "I think certain players like that confrontation," Clarke said. "There are guys like this in all the teams around the world who perform better with that kind of confrontation. But I know how good a bowler he is so I will be more focused on trying to counter what comes out his of hand and try my best to adapt to that. He's always tough to face, he's always a great challenge and I really enjoy facing him because I think he is one of the best spinners in the world."

Harbhajan has been an important part of the India-Australia rivalry over the last 10 years. Ricky Ponting, too, recently admitted that Harbhajan has managed to trouble him more than other offspinners. "None of the other offspinners have their way around me as Harbhajan does," Ponting said. "So I have to give it to him. He has bowled very well against me."

Clarke disagreed with what Mark Taylor said about Ponting's batting. "Ricky looks as fit as I have seen him since I started playing with him," Clarke said. "He is training as hard as ever, and I do believe what I said the other day, that his next six-eight-twelve months will be as big as you have seen from Ricky Ponting.

"He is keen as mustard to do well, he is really looking forward to the start of the tour. He is enjoying, I guess, so much youth being around in the squad. Obviously he has played over a 150 [146] Tests. There is so much knowledge and experience, he is really enjoying helping the younger players. I mean when I say that I wouldn't be surprised if these are Ricky's best four months of his career."

Clarke said Ponting has been a great influence on the team as a leader. "The effect Ricky has on the team is unbelievable, even before he walks out to bat," Clarke said. "He is a leader, and the way he takes responsibility, the way he leads by an example on and off the field is a huge thing. He has done that for such a long time. He is one of the greatest to have ever played cricket for Australia."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo