Clarke cautions Aussies ahead of Bengaluru Test

New Delhi, March 2 (IANS) Ahead of the second cricket Test against India in Bengaluru from Saturday, former Australia skipper Michael Clarke on Thursday cautioned the visitors that the home side will bounce back harder, especially after the humiliating loss in the opening Test in Pune.

Australia ended the Virat Kohli-led side’s 19-match unbeaten streak after inflicting a massive 333-run defeat in the opening game to take a 1-0 lead in the four-Test series.

But Clarke, who led the team during the Kangaroos’ 0-4 whitewash in 2013, said it will be a tough task for the Aussies to beat the hosts in the second game.

“Kohli is focused and ready for the next Test match. India will be tougher for Australia to beat in Bengaluru than in Pune. If India would’ve won toss and batted in Pune, I don’t know if result would’ve been the same,” Clarke was quoted as saying by India Today TV.

Clarke, who made his Test debut against India in Bengaluru, said getting a good first innings total is the key to success in subcontinental conditions.

“In India, the first innings total is critical. If you get a good first innings score of 450 or more, it doesn’t matter who wins the toss. How you bat in the first innings, that dictates the game. So getting more runs in the first innings should be the focus for both teams,” he said.

“We have seen that in Pune, Australia made 265 which is a very good score on a tough wicket, India went on to make 105, so mainly the Test match was over after the first innings. Australia had a lead of 150 or more, it was always a tough task for India to chase in the second innings of a Test match.”

“Bengaluru will be no different, the wicket will deteriorate over the five days, so the first two and a half days will be important. In subcontinent, it feels like the game is moving quite slowly over the first three days, so then the final two days when the wicket does deteriorate, the ball starts spinning more with inconsistent bounce and pace, then it starts troubling the batsmen,” he added.

Hailing Kohli as a “tough character”, Clarke feels that the Indians will have to be at their best to beat the Australians from here on.

“Kohli is a tough character, very confident in his own ability. For me he’s the best in all formats. India need to combat four big players in the Australian team — (Steve) Smith, (David) Warner, (Mitchell) Starc and (Josh) Hazlewood. India now know they have to be at their best to beat Australia,” he said.

“Hang on to your catches otherwise Smith will make a hundred,” was his advice to the hosts after the Aussie skipper was dropped four times in Pune.

Clarke, however defended pacer Ishant Sharma and middle-order batsman Ajinkya Rahane’s place in the playing XI for the Bengaluru Test.

“Rahane is a terrific player, India will give him another opportunity. He’s earned that right. Ishant deserves to be in this team. He is a wonderful bowler, bowled really well against England,” he said.

“It was just the pitch in Pune which didn’t suit the pacers. The conditions will be different in Bengaluru and after assessing the pitch, its an option for India to decide on the playing XI.”

Hesitating to give a clear prediction for the remainder of the series, Clarke said he wanted all the matches to yield results rather than ending in a tame draw.

“I’d like to see a winner and a loser in this series, I don’t want it to be a draw and I am sure both the teams will play aggressive cricket and there will be results,” he added.

–IANS

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