‘Nuf said, now let’s play
Australia’s captain Michael Clarke today denied that he had deliberately leaked a secret dossier itemising the strengths and weaknesses of the Proteas’ team.
The dossier was published in the local newspaper, The Courier Mail, this morning, 24 hours before the key first Test begins at the Gabba.
Among other things, the dossier details plans to engage Hashim Amla in a sledging war and submit him, Jacques Kallis and JP Duminy to a bouncer barrage.
Clarke, who seemed amused rather than concerned about the leaking of the dossier, said most of the information was “common knowledge” while the rest made for “interesting reading”.
“We always have information about any opposition we play against and it’s no different against South Africa,” the Australian captain said after his team had completed their final net session at the Gabba yesterday.
Asked whether he had been involved in leaking the information as part of an Australian psychological assault on the Proteas, Clarke replied: “No. Not from my point of view. I didn’t know anything was coming out.”
The dossier revealed the entire Australian game plan for each South African player, detailing their strengths and possible vulnerabilities. South Africa captain Graeme Smith seemed equally amused and philosophical about the leak.
“It was nothing we didn’t expect. I haven’t read much of it, just the odd line here and there. Look, we’ve played enough times against Australia to know what it takes to be victorious.
“I’ve said before that our focus has been solely on our preparation and I think we’ve completed that really well. “It’s been good, clinical and intelligent, and now we can’t wait to get going.”
The Proteas skipper said his experienced, settled team were used to the “cut and thrust” of series against Australia, on and off the field.
The dossier as well as statements made by former Proteas coach Mickey Arthur (claiming that Dale Steyn didn’t bowl well against left-handers), would simply be used to increase the motivation of his players.
“The series will be all about the pressure moments, and our Test side has shown in recent years that it can respond well to those.
“It will be all about small margins and if we can be clinical and not too emotional around them over the next five days then I’ll be happy.”
In relation to Amla, the dossier said: “We should look to get into his head and play a bit of a psychological war. We should also look to attack him with short-pitched bowling, let’s really go after him with some short-pitched stuff.”
Another player in the dossier limelight was AB de Villiers, who was described in glowing terms in the dossier. His Achilles heel, according to the dossier, was the fact that his keeping wicket was causing his batting to “deteriorate”.
Another major focus fell on leg-spinner Imran Tahir, who is described as an “attacking spinner” who has taken many wickets but also conceded a lot of runs.
“We should really ramp up the pressure on him,” the dossier concluded. “Unlike Paul Harris, Tahir cannot hold up a game. He can be very impatient with his bowling and it leads to him being expensive.”
Clarke said the real issue relating to the information was that it wasn’t ultimately a case of what was said, but about the Australians executing their game plans.
“The most important thing for me is not about what you say, it’s about what you do. Enough’s been said already, there’s been plenty of talk in the media, the series has been built up beautifully; now it’s about what we do.”
The Gabba pitch was looking greener today, and Clarke said this had caused him and coach Mickey Arthur to delay naming their final XI until the morning of the match.
“It’s about whether we go in with three fast bowlers and a spinner (Nathan Lyon), or whether we go for the four quicks,” the Aussie captain said.
Smith said his management would decide on their final XI tonight, but he hinted strongly that South Africa would go in with a spinner (Tahir), three specialist pace bowlers (Steyn, Morné Morkel and Vernon Philander) and back-up paceman Kallis.
The Gabba Test will feature a battle between the two top pace attacks in world cricket.
Steyn and Philander are ranked one and two in the world, while Morkel is in the top 10. Their success in recent years is a mark not only of their pace, but the variety of complementary skills they bring to the party.
Steyn is fast and skiddy with late outswing, Philander nags away at the batsmen, moving the ball each way off the seam, while Morkel is fast and his back-of-a-length bowling forces the batsmen to fend off sharply rising deliveries.
The Australian pace foursome represents a mixture of youth and experience, with the hard-working and aggressive Peter Siddle and swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus the hardened performers.