Auckland: Australian captain Michael Clarke admitted Friday he is sick of discussing his hamstring injury and weary of the relentless spotlight on sledging ahead of the World Cup showdown against New Zealand.
Australia skipper Michael Clarke. Pic/AFP
Australia go into the Eden Park clash on Saturday, in front of 40,000 people, trailing their trans-Tasman rivals by three points in Pool A with speculation that trash-talking -- be it between players or from the crowd -- is set to play a part at some stage. But Clarke, who will return to the team having missed the opening win over England two weeks ago, snapped when pressed on the sledging. "Again, sledging. My God, I'm sick of talking about it," he said.
"For me, personally, it's never impacted my game." Clarke is on the comeback trail after playing just two one-day internationals last year and has not played international cricket since injuring his hamstring during the Adelaide Test against India in December. Clarke, whose verbal clashes with South African paceman Dale Steyn last year made headlines as did his infamous clash with James Anderson in the last Ashes series, where he warned the Englishman "to get ready for a broken arm", insists that sledging has no bearing on the outcome of a game. "So, me saying something to somebody, or somebody saying something to me, has never helped me have success or hindered me having success. I'm not a big believer in it. It comes down to the individual player.
If it helps them, then go for it." Clarke expects a vociferous home crowd to come down hard on the Australians inside the compact Eden Park venue. "I'm sure we're going to get heckled, but that's a really good part of playing away from home, experiencing that," Clarke said.
"I've been fortunate to play for a few years now and experience it all around the world. I know the guys are excited about a full house and experiencing the New Zealand crowds." Clarke admitted the game will be key with a New Zealand win almost certain to guarantee them top spot in the pool. "It's obviously a big game. I don't remember too many easy games against New Zealand, whether you played them in Australia or play them over here."
The Australian praised the high-flying Black Caps who are in good form having won all three games in the World Cup after beating Sri Lanka in a one-day series 4-2 followed by two wins over Pakistan in the run-up to the tournament. - Respect - "They're really tough opposition. I think both teams have the utmost respect for each other, as well, and hopefully we can put on a really good, entertaining show for the full house and the people who are watching back in Australia." In combative mood, Clarke said he was exhausted by the constant attention on his recovery from hamstring problems. "I think everybody is sick of talking about my injury, my old injury, I should say. But it feels really good.
I've worked exceptionally hard," said Clarke who has also been plagued by back problems. The Australian skipper said he admired the attacking style of Brendon McCullum after the New Zealand captain hit the fastest World Cup fifty, off 18 balls, against England last week.
"I know Brendon pretty well and I think he has certainly that attacking, positive style, as you see in his own performances but I think you see that in his captaincy style as well. "I think also that (fast bowlers) Tim Southee and Trent Boult complement each other really well.
They have a right-armer who can swing it away, a left-hander who can swing it in -- this is to a right-handed batsman. Their first change (Adam Milne) is young and aggressive." In a hint of the starting eleven for Saturday's game, Clarke indicated that the out-of-form all-rounder Shane Watson would keep his place. "I think 'Watto' has certainly acknowledged that he would like to make runs as much as anybody. I wouldn't be surprised if you see him walk out there and make an important hundred for us."