'It is about putting the team first' - Michael Clarke

Where others saw records or dollar signs, Michael Clarke could only surmise Australia's chances of victory. In declaring on 329 not out after a stand of 334 with Michael Hussey, Clarke gave his side half the match to round up India a second time, and had taken two choice wickets in the form of Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid before the close.

Against a nation that has a well-entrenched fascination, even obsession, with individual run-scoring achievements, Clarke's decision drew plenty of post-play questions about why he had not gone on in pursuit of Brian Lara's 400, or even surpassed Don Bradman and Mark Taylor only five runs further on from his tally. But Clarke was adamant that the pursuit of the win came first.

"I didn't think about it at all, I didn't have Don Bradman or Mark Taylor's score in my head whatsoever," Clarke said. "It was about trying to get the team to a number, a total I thought would be a good score to make a declaration, then have a crack this afternoon to get a couple of wickets.

"I think it is about putting the team first, that's why we play. What I love most about this game is seeing this team win. I've always been like that as a player and I'll be no different as a captain. If it was best for the team to continue batting I would have continued to bat."

While he stopped short of such records, Clarke could be content with the highest Test score ever made at the SCG, surpassing RE Foster's 287 for England more than a century ago. He said the magnitude of his innings would not sink in until the match ended, preferably in victory for his side.

"I don't think it'll sink in properly until we win the Test match," Clarke said. "That's why we play, that was my goal walking out there today. Don't get me wrong, I'm stoked that I've managed to make 300-odd runs in this Test match, but the most important thing for me now is we win the Test.

"That was a big part of the reason for my declaration. I spoke to Huss just before we declared and I really wanted him to make 150, he deserved it, and once he got that I thought now we have a 450-run lead, it is a good time to pull up stumps and try to get a couple of wickets tonight.

"I didn't expect to score 300 in one innings, so the fact I've done that I'm stoked, and [as for] all the other records, I'm happy where I sit to be honest."

Clarke said the most testing aspect of his innings was simply to sustain his energy and concentration over nearly two days of batting. His previous first-class best of 201 not out for New South Wales had receded a long way into the distance by the time he had finished.

"Batting the amount of time for me [was the toughest thing]. I've never batted that long in any form of the game in any team in my career," he said. "Physically I felt pretty good, when I came to the ground I felt pretty fresh, and my body felt in a pretty good position. It's just the mental application and concentration that you need to have."

Clarke's application has if anything been enhanced by the captaincy, and he is now doing great things in the role to earn the respect of his team and the Australian public. The former captain Mark Taylor has said vice-captaincy can be difficult when the leader is a figure a legendary as Allan Border or Ricky Ponting, but Clarke said he had appreciated the apprenticeship, too.

"I've said it a million times and I'll say it again, it's about respect, continuing to earn the public's respect and that's all I've ever wanted," he said. "People are going to dislike me, that's life, the way it is, but the most important thing for me, especially being the Australian captain now, you want your home fans to respect you, so that's all I've ever asked for.

"I enjoyed the vice-captaincy a lot. I thought it was fantastic to sit underneath Ricky and learn as much as I could from him, learn about leadership, learn about captaincy, learn about what it takes off the field to captain Australia. That probably opened my eyes to leadership more than anything else.

"And I've enjoyed this challenge. It's an honour and privilege to captain Australia, there's a lot that goes with it, but I'm enjoying it at the moment. The team having some success obviously makes life a lot easier. We've got a lot of talent out there so that makes my job a lot easier as well."

Hussey's own 150 was put in the shade by Clarke, much as anyone who batted any length of time with Don Bradman had been. But he said he had simply enjoyed the chance to bat alongside Clarke for 334 runs, and to witness the SCG's highest individual tally from the other end.

"I don't really mind [being overshadowed]. I said to Pup out in the middle I was honoured and privileged to witness and be a part of that," Hussey said. "It was a fantastic innings and one I'll remember for a long time, I'm sure Pup will as well, and one that got our team into a very strong position in the Test match, that's what I'll remember about it."