India are still favourites to win the World Cup according to Australia’s Michael Clarke despite being held to a tie by England and pushed hard before beating Ireland in the group stage.
Co-hosts India have yet to lose in this World Cup as indeed do defending champions Australia, although they had to make-do with a no-result washout against Sri Lanka last weekend.
India and Australia have been kept apart in a World Cup first round where the 14 competing teams are split into two pools of seven, with the top four in each going through to the quarterfinals.
But that hasn’t stopped Australia vice-captain Clarke keeping a close eye on India’s progress.
“India are still the favourites because they are playing games in their home conditions, I think they have got a very strong squad,” said Clarke.
“India playing at home are always favourites.”Australia, bidding for a fourth straight World Cup title and fifth in all, have not lost a match at the tournament since 1999 but top-order batsman Clarke was cautious as to whether they could maintain that unbeaten run.
“We are happy with the way we have been playing but it is a long, long way to go in the tournament.”
Australia have welcomed experienced Michael Hussey into their squad after the batsman, left out on account of a hamstring problem from which he has now recovered, was called-up to replace fast bowler Doug Bollinger.
“Having a left-hander in the squad will surely help,” Clarke said of Hussey. “You have to be experienced no matter what the conditions are.
“He has played a lot of cricket in the subcontinent and he is going to play a huge part (in the World Cup).
“So far the guys in the middle-order haven’t had much of an opportunity but this is just the start of the tournament and experience in the middle-order will surely help as the tournament goes on.
“In the past he has shown us he can go out and win games on his own in any form of the game. So I am very confident that having Hussey around is going to help us.”
By the time Australia face Kenya at the Chinnaswamy stadium on Sunday it will be a week since they took the field for their rain-affected clash against Sri Lanka.
However, Clarke insisted having time to spend honing your game was always a plus point when in India.
“I think the most important thing while playing in the subcontinent is to improve your skill to play in these conditions.
“As the tournament goes on I think spin is going to play an important part and obviously we have seen reverse-swing as well. I think, as a batsman, when you get to a training session you are working on those sorts of things.”