Harbhajan Singh would be 'very hard' to face: Michael Clarke

Clarke said he has always shared a good relationship with Harbhajan on and off the field.

Updated: February 21, 2013 18:32 IST
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Chennai: Australia captain Michael Clarke on Thursday admitted that off-spinner Harbhajan Singh would be the toughest customer to face among Indian bowlers when the two teams lock horns in the first Test of the four-match series, starting in Chennai on Friday.

Clarke also congratulated Harbhajan who is set to complete a century of Test appearances on Friday.

"Firstly I think that is great for Harbhajan (playing in his 100th Test). On behalf of the Australian team, we congratulate him. It's a very special achievement. He is going to be very hard to face among all the Indian bowlers but we have our plans to win this Test," Clarke told reporters at the pre-match post conference.

Lavishing praise on Harbhajan, Clarke said he has always shared a good relationship with the veteran off-spinner on and off the field.

"He has been a wonderful player. I always had a very good relationship with Harbhajan. I have faced challenges on the field as he is a very good bowler. He has played Test matches against the best players and I am sure that this Test is not going to be different," he added.

With 408 wickets from 99 Tests at an average of 32.27 and a strike-rate of 68.1, Harbhajan has been one of India's most prolific bowlers even though he has been going through a tough phase for quite sometime now.

Harbhajan, interestingly, found fame after single-handedly demolishing the Australians in the famous 2001 series, picking up 32 wickets from three Tests. For Clarke, there is no use trying to imitate someone else's style of play and develop one's own style.

"To me, it is no good to me, personally bat like Damien Martyn or Ricky Pointing since it is not going to help to have success. I am going to play the way I play my best cricket. The same regards to the team. It is no good that we pick the same team as India. We have a different team to England or South Africa."

Asked about spin cover for Lyon, he answered,"We have an advantage in conditions where we think that fast bowling will play a part. But on the other hand we do have our balance in Nathan Lyon and David Warner is bowling lot of leg spins in the nets and I can bowl some left arm orthodox as well."

Veteran pacer Mitchell Johnson has not been included in the playing XI but Clarke defended the decision.

"When selecting your team, you have to pick the best attack and not the best individual bowlers, who perhaps gets selected always. We have picked a team that will have success under the available conditions here. That is the main reason and it certainly not personal or individual player is fighting against each other and trying to get in the XI."

On the strategy that his batsmen will employ, Clarke quipped,"I think you have team plans with regard to communicate and talk about opposition bowlers. The key to batting is partnerships and we do have team plans and I think individually you are going to have your own plan regards especially to how you start your innings.

"For me, as a captain it is about acknowledging that and accepting that in putting faith in the other player or roll back and support them."

Ashes is a series that every cricketer from Australia and England aspire to play for but the Indo-Australian rivalry is certainly not far behind.

"It is a huge series. It is as special a series for Australian player to come and play in India, which has always been one of the toughest teams to play against and we always look forward to that challenge.

"Neither are we are looking back at our performances against South Africa and Sri Lanka nor we are not looking forward to the Ashes. We are really focused on this series."

Clarke always has had fond memories of playing in India as he got a century on his debut in Bangalore and en route his ton, he decided to wear the Baggy Green.

Reminded about that incident, he stated,"I think I will never take off my helmet this time."

Answering to a query as to how much has changed in these eight years, he said,"I have grown little bit older now and a bit wiser. I have got few more grey hairs. I am still loving my cricket as much and I am really enjoying the young team that we have at the moment."

On the younger players, he commented,"They have not played in longer version matches in India but they have enjoyed being in India whenever they have come for Twenty20 matches."

"In Australia, we have less spice (in our dishes) and here in India, it is lot of spice. There are so many great things about being in this beautiful country. I am very lucky that I have the chance to come here as captain as the Australian side. I am as excited as I was in 2004 when I made my debut. I am just excited now and really hope that this team has some success in the tour."

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