New Delhi: Virat Kohli and Steve Smith are on even keel as far as leadership qualities are concerned, feels former Australia skipper Michael Clarke even though he rates the Indian captain as a slightly better ODI batsman.
Asked who is a better batsman and leader among the two contemporary greats, Clarke observed: “Virat is a better ODI batsman but just about that. Smith perhaps is better in longer format.”
“In terms of captaincy, both are equal and they are improving. At the moment, Virat is on top as his team is winning. But again, irrespective of the number of runs you score, what matters is whether your team is winning matches or not,” said Clarke, who is here as a TV expert for the upcoming five-match ODI series.
Harbhajan Singh, during the last Test series, had stirred the hornet’s nest by terming the Australian side as the weakest ever to tour India and even predicting a 4-0 whitewash. Australia eventually did much better to lose 1-2.
Clarke was asked the same question about whether this side, led by Smith, is the weakest to tour India, considering it did not even qualify for the Champions Trophy semi-final.
Clarke’s sense of humour came to the fore as he came up with a cheeky response. “I am silly but I am not that silly to give you a front- page headline for tomorrow’s newspaper!” he answered with a wry smile as everyone had a good laugh.
On a serious note, he said: “Obviously, this is an opportunity for this Australian side to translate their potential into consistent performance. This team needs to back its talent as there’s enough talent in the squad.”
The Indian team has played an aggressive brand of cricket and Clarke did find certain similarities between the two sides led by Sourav Ganguly and Virat Kohli. “I think there are similarities. Sourav Ganguly deserves a lot of credit for the environment he created. He never took a backseat. MS Dhoni, Anil Kumble and Kohli have all done it in their own ways. The current Indian team is led by an aggressive skipper who does not want to lose,” Clarke said during a promotional event.
Clarke said premier fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who are currently recuperating from injuries, would be missed by Australia.
The incentive, according to the former skipper, should be a 4-1 win which could put Australia on top of the ICC ODI rankings. “A carrot right there for Smith and the boys because if they win 4-1 then they become the No.1 side again.”
“The support staff has to work out the way they wish to play. Whether they want to play an aggressive brand of cricket or wish to hold back and play the full quota of overs.
“We still have some way to go before the 2019 World Cup, but honestly we have not won as much as we would like,” Clarke replied when asked about the brand of cricket, he is expecting from the Aussies.
Most of the Australian players are part of the Indian Premier League which makes it easier for them to adapt to the conditions. “The experience of playing in India makes it all the more easier for the Aussies. India is like a second home for these guys as they have played in the IPL. They know the conditions and the opposition so there can’t be any excuse,” Clarke signed off.