Australia in India 2008-09 October 7, 2008

Clarke's illness worries Australia

Cricinfo staff


Michael Clarke was forced to skip training two days before the first Test © Getty Images
 

Australia have experienced another disruption in their preparation for the first Test with Michael Clarke missing training on Tuesday due to a stomach illness. Clarke, who is still expected to play, scored a century on debut in Bangalore four years ago and his presence is essential for the Australians as the vice-captain, experienced batsman and crucial spin option.

The tourists' slow bowling stocks are low, with Cameron White replacing Bryce McGain and Jason Krejza the other option. Ricky Ponting will look to Clarke, who ended his maiden series with 6 for 9 in Mumbai, for his left-arm spin while Simon Katich's wrist-spin could also be employed.

Clarke experienced a similar problem before a one-day game in Bangalore in 2007, but recovered to score 130 in Australia's total of 307 for 7. Shane Watson has also been sick on the tour, picking up a chest problem last week and missing the warm-up game against the Indian Board President's XI.

Stuart Clark, the fast bowler, said he expected Australia to choose a traditional attack with a slow bowler and three fast men. "I'm not sure which one that will be - they don't tell me," he said after training.

While the lead-up has not been smooth for the batsmen and spinners, Clark has faith in Australia's attack following their extended preparation and he was buoyed by the unexpected green tinges in the Bangalore pitch. The surface already contains some cracks, but it is moist following regular rain over the past week.

"Jaipur was good to acclimatise and Hyderabad was good for the fact that we got to play a competitive game on a wicket that didn't suit the quicker bowlers," he said. "It's something we really needed to do, to get here and get used to the conditions, and now we're in pretty good stead."

Clark expects to open the bowling with Brett Lee, with Mitchell Johnson at first change, and it will be a reward for his mature performances since entering the team in 2006. "I hope so, I think that's the way we're sort of going at the moment," he said. "I enjoy it [taking the new ball], it really helps me. I think I've done a good job with the team while I've had it."

Johnson was often preferred by Ponting during the 2007-08 season, but Clark looms as a more consistent danger and finished the West Indies series as Lee's partner. He has been given first use of the ball in only eight innings and his tight line and sharp bounce make him a difficult prospect early in a spell.

"Brett comes on for the shock value, I do the other sort of stuff, and try to build it up from one end and get some wickets," he said. "I do the more consistent job. If we get an opening, Brett's the guy that can come on and really exploit that."

Clark spoke to Glenn McGrath before he left Australia and he also expects to talk with Michael Kasprowicz and Jason Gillespie, who are about to play in the Indian Cricket League, about bowling in India. As the into-the-wind man, Clark knows the difficulty of the assignment.

"You don't get a lot of love back from the wicket," he said. "It can be hard work. Kasprowicz did it well and just bowled all day, losing 8kg, that sort of thing. That's the secret, you've got to do it all day. You can't shirk that responsibility.

The bowlers will attempt to replicate the success of their plans in 2004, when they aimed more at the wickets while trying to get bowleds, lbws and close-in catches. "I think that will be successful if we implement it again."