Ponting tells team leaders to step up
Ricky Ponting has asked his senior men for a greater impact in Delhi when Australia attempt to fight back from a 1-0 series deficit in Wednesday's third Test. The elder statesmen, particularly Matthew Hayden and Brett Lee, have been quiet overall during the opening two games and are desperate to show their worth against a committed India.
Michael Clarke, the vice-captain, is one of those who want to lift after the start of his campaign peaked with his first half-century of the series in the second innings at Mohali. In the four years since making his debut in India, Clarke has grown into a mature figure and will also look to help the team's large group of inexperienced players through the final two games of the series.
"Ricky spoke to us about a little more responsibility going on the senior guys," Clarke said. "It's hard enough playing in India for the first time and for the first couple of Tests, so it's important the extra expectation gets put on the captain, vice-captain and senior players. Hayden, Lee, Clark, Hussey, it's up to us guys to really stand up, with bat or ball.
"I'm certainly going to take a little bit more responsibility in my own performances. It's crucial for us to win in Delhi, and important for the senior guys to stand up."
Stuart Clark's elbow will continue to be monitored in the lead-up to the match, but he has bowled strongly in training and will come into the side if fit. The Australians will also keep a close eye on the pitch, which had a slight covering of grass on Sunday, but is expected to turn heavily late in the match.
One of the issues discussed when the Australians returned from a short break this week was the importance of not thinking about the glut of engagements they have over the next two years. The India series is the start of a run that won't settle down until well into 2010.
"What did come out was we weren't going to look backwards or too far forward," Clarke said of the meeting. "There's been a lot of talk about how much cricket we have coming up over the next 12 to 15 months and it's important to look at what we have right now."
Clarke admitted he had been guilty of gazing too far ahead, but it wasn't because he was concerned about too much cricket on the horizon. "It's excitement over who we're playing," he said. "We've got some really tough cricket. India in India is a good start, then a big Australian summer, South Africa in South Africa, then the Ashes, which is something you always look forward to."
Since taking over the vice-captaincy from Adam Gilchrist - his first appointment was in the West Indies - Clarke has scored 277 runs at 39.57 in four Tests, including 110 on his return to the side in the Caribbean following the death of his fiancée's father. The figures are slightly down on his career average of 45.50 in 37 games.
"Personally I don't feel it [the vice-captaincy] has had too much of an impact on my individual performances," he said. "My stats since being vice-captain probably aren't the greatest, but I feel as comfortable as I ever have."
Clarke has talked to Ponting, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Shane Warne about how to marry the leadership duties with maintaining high batting standards. "They're the guys who have helped me a lot and they've explained there are extra responsibilities, being captain or vice-captain of your country, but you should enjoy those," he said. "I knew that when I took on the job."