Clarke promises friendly Australia and India series despite memories of fiery tour
Australia captain Michael Clarke is adamant his team will play hard but not cross the line in the four-Test series against India.
When India last toured Australia in 2007/08, several incidents – including Harbhajan Singh being fined for using abusive language towards Andrew Symonds – marred the series, won by the hosts.
But Clarke and India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni want to avoid similar controversy, and the Australia batsman said his side knows where the competitive line stands.
Landmark: Michael Clarke is preparing for his first Boxing Day Test as captain
“Both teams understand where we”re at. I think the relationship between the Australia team and India team could not be stronger,” Clarke said. “I think there”s a lot of friendships made there and we all understand there”s a line you can go to, but there”s a line you can”t cross.
“I can guarantee you nobody in the Australian team will cross that and if they do, there will be punishments from the ICC (International Cricket Council), and also Cricket Australia.
“We”ll be doing everything in our power to play some really competitive, tough cricket, but we understand and acknowledge that we won”t cross that line.”
Australia team for first Test:
Michael Clarke (capt), Brad Haddin, Ed Cowan, Ben Hilfenhaus, Michael Hussey, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, James Pattinson, Ricky Ponting, Peter Siddle, David Warner, Mitchell Starc (12th man).
The fiery incident between Symonds and Harbhajan occurred after the spinner was frustrated by several decisions going against him in the second Test at the SCG.
With the Decision Review System not in place for the upcoming series, there had been concerns the players” frustrations could again boil over. Symonds and Harbhajan have since played together in the Indian Premier League (IPL), and Clarke said the Twenty20 tournament had allowed players from the two countries to form close friendships.
“I think the relationship between the Australian players and the Indian players is very good and will continue to be that way,” Clarke said.
“The IPL has played a big part because you get the opportunity to play with people from all around the world.
Raring to go: Ricky Ponting (left) warms up for the first Test in Melbourne
“In saying that, I think the series out on the field will be very competitive. Both teams want to win, both have a lot to play for and in my career it”s been no different against India.
“It”s always been very competitive on the field, but off the field both teams get on very well.”
Opener Ed Cowan will make his debut for Australia on Boxing Day after being named in the XI against India.
Cowan has scored centuries in each of his past four innings for Tasmania and the Chairman”s XI against India in a warm-up match.
Clash: Tempers flared on India”s last tour of Australia in 2007 and 2008
Ben Hilfenhaus and Shaun Marsh were also named in the team, the latter back from a back injury Cowan and Marsh replaced out-of-from pair Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja, while swing bowler Hilfenhaus has come in for Mitch Starc, who is 12th man.
Ryan Harris and Dan Christian will remain with the group until their Big Bash League commitments later in the week, and all-rounder Shane Watson will also continue his recovery in Melbourne in a bid to be fit for consideration for selection for upcoming Test matches.
Debut: Aussie opener Ed Cowan
With Australia missing Watson”s contribution with the ball, captain Michael Clarke revealed Hilfenhaus” endurance helped him win the final bowling spot over youngster Starc.
Clarke said: “He is a very good new ball bowler and he can bowl long spells and he has had success against India as well so there”s probably a few reasons why we decided to go with Hilfy.
“We feel we have got the right XI to give ourselves a chance to win the Test match.”
Clarke said 21-year-old Starc was disappointed when told he was dropped.
“Mitch is obviously disappointed. He would have loved a chance but he understands the reasons,” he said.
“He has to keep working hard at his game now to continue to improve. (He needs) to go back to his Big Bash team and New South Wales and continue to take wickets.”