Kolkata: Australia's World Cup winning captain Michael Clarke said on Wednesday he is "surprised" by Virat Kohli's decision to skip India's one-off Test against Afghanistan next month in order to play for English county side Surrey and prepare better for India's long tour of England.
"Look I am really surprised. I don't know that's Virat's choice but I am really surprised. I think a Test match is a Test match. I don't care who you are playing against, it needs to be number one priority," Clarke said in an interactive session.
"I still feel Virat can get what he wants in terms of coming and playing some games for Surrey and then I would like to see him fly back and play the Test match," he added.
"I think there is a bit of a gap in the schedule which will allow him to do that. I think there are some one-dayers which he would be missing for Surrey.
"In my whole career I prioritised my country. I gave up every other opportunity to play for whatever franchise or other teams. To represent your country is the most special thing in the world. Whatever team you play against, I think that should be the No.1 priority," added the 37-year old who led Australia to its 2015 World Cup triumph.
Earlier this month, Virat had officially inked a deal with Surrey and the decision was backed by Committee of Administrators (CoA) chief Vinod Rai.
India will take on England in five Tests later this year and the right-hander has a poor record in England.
During the 2014 tour, he managed just 134 runs from five Tests at an woeful average of 13.40 without crossing the 50-mark even once in the series.
Hailing Virat's decision to play county cricket, Clarke said it only shows the 29-year old's passion to win and sends across a clear message to one and all that India will leave no stones unturned in trying to win in England.
"Virat is showing how much he cares about India becoming the best team in the world. The fact that he is going and playing county cricket is setting a clear message to his teammates, to England and everyone around the world that he wants India to have a successful tour of the UK and wants to lead from the front," he said.
"It will be fantastic preparation for him and also shows his determination. It shows not only how hungry he is to perform individually but how much he wants India to have success," he added.
Clarke also backed the India skipper despite his team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) faring poorly in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL), stating the right-hander has been in great form.
"He is batting beautifully, RCB is losing but he is I think No.5 in the highest run-getters list in the IPL."
The RCB skipper is fifth in the leading scorers' list with 396 runs from 10 games at 49.50.
Asked about India's chances in the World Cup next year, Clarke rated India as one of the favourites saying the one-day side is a superb mix of youth and experience.
"India will go into the World Cup as one of the favourites. The experience of the players will play a part. They have some wonderful spinners. India have a very strong ODI team. They have so many match-winners. In 2015, we won the World Cup because we had match winners," he said.
"I don't think the team is missing anything. They have got it right there. I think it's about preparation and form and playing your best cricket at the right time.
"You have got the experience. I feel MS Dhoni has to be part of that World Cup squad. It's a good mixture of youth and experience," he added.
Clarke also pointed out that the IPL has so many Indian captains and that is a huge advantage.
"What it means is when India select their 11 players or 15 players for the squad, you are assured some of those players will use their leadership experience into the Indian setup and that's what you want," the former Kangaroo skipper pointed out.