World Cup 2015: Clarke on classy Smith, X-factor Johnson and playing in-form Kiwis

Michael Clarke was speaking with the media after Australia beat India to make the World Cup final. You can also listen to the full press conference in the audio widget above.

Q. Michael, you're facing New Zealand obviously and the last one in New Zealand didn't go your way, although it was a close encounter, New Zealand unbeaten so far. Do you think the fact you'll have the home advantage, will that slightly play in your favour?
MICHAEL CLARKE: I think the fact that the conditions are different will certainly help us, and we've played a fair bit of cricket throughout the summer at the MCG, as well. Conditions are a lot different to what New Zealand have been playing in in New Zealand, but in saying that, I think we're going to have to play our best cricket. There's no doubt about it. I said that before this game that we have to play our best to beat very good opposition. New Zealand have been the form team of the competition, certainly deserve to be in the final, and yeah, we're going to have to, like I say, be at our best to beat them.

Q. Michael, on that same tone, how big a deal is it for you that it's New Zealand in the final, I suppose a trans-Tasman rivalry and co-hosting the World Cup? Is it extra special?
MICHAEL CLARKE: I don't think it matters too much to us who we were going to play in the final. Like I say, New Zealand deserve a lot of credit. They've been the form team of the tournament. But I don't think it bothers us too much about who we had to play. It was our priority and our goal was to get into the final first and foremost. And it happens to be New Zealand. So yeah, look, I think there's always that great rivalry between Australia and New Zealand. I think the fact that the two hosting nations are in the final is extremely special. I think there's a great mutual respect between both teams. I think Australia and New Zealand on and off the cricket field have a wonderful relationship. I think both countries do. I think we've seen that over a number of years, and the cricket teams are no different. Once we walk out onto that field we know it's going to be an extremely tough battle and we're going to be up for that, but off the field, both teams get on really well.

 World Cup 2015: Clarke on classy Smith, X-factor Johnson and playing in-form Kiwis

Clarke was pleased with the overall display from his side. AFP

Q. With only two days' recovery are you confident physically that you'll be okay for the final?
MICHAEL CLARKE: Me? I'll be fine. Yeah, look, obviously we haven't got much time, and recovery will be our goal and our focus over the next two days. We'll have training on Saturday, but I think that'll be selected players and optional. I don't think our bowlers will do too much. Smitty probably doesn't need to hit too many balls, although he probably will. But yeah, recovery is what's important now. We fly now, I think our flight is in the morning, so blokes will recover tonight, blokes will recover when we land in Melbourne. I think physical recovery is the most important thing for us right now. I think mentally the team is ready for this final. If the game was today or the game was tomorrow, I think we're ready mentally. We've been building up throughout this tournament to get this opportunity to play a World Cup final. I'm not concerned there. It's just making sure the guys can recover as well as we can from this tough game.

Q. And just on Steve's promotion up to 3, is it the best call you've made this tournament?
MICHAEL CLARKE: I thought that referral was pretty good. I think he's made the most of his opportunity. I can't speak highly enough for the way he's batting at the moment. He's showing his class. But most importantly, I think the one thing I've learnt through my career is getting into good form and scoring runs is a fantastic feeling, but still, to go to training the next day to work on your game, to try and become better, is one of the hardest things to do in this game, but that's what makes you a great player, and that's what I've been really proud with Smitty with. He's still training extremely hard, still getting there early, still doing the work even though he's batting so well, and I can't say I'm surprised he's getting the results he's getting. He's earned it, and I think there's no doubt there's a long, long way to go in his career, there's a lot more runs to score, but he's certainly leading the way at the moment. He's standing up and he's certainly made the most of the opportunity he's got at No. 3 in One Day cricket. He's been ready for a while, it was just about getting that chance, and Test cricket is no different. He's ready for that, as well, if he gets the opportunity.

Q. What did both of you make of Aaron's innings today? Perhaps not a typical innings for him, and what does that mean for him?
MICHAEL CLARKE: I think that's a real positive for Finchy and for the team. Don't be surprised if he walks out on Sunday and makes an unbelievable hundred. I think that innings will do him a world of good. The fact that he spent the time in the middle, and I said that to him when he walked off, I think he was a little bit disappointed with the way he batted, or with the way it felt, but I think he did a fantastic job, and again, in any form of the game, the partnership is the most important part, not necessarily the individual score, and I thought the work he did with Smitty was exactly what we needed at that time, and I think that time in the middle will allow him on Sunday to walk out and play with freedom. Don't be surprised if he makes a big hundred.

Q. Michael, can you talk to us a bit about Mitchell Johnson, both the innings he played right at the back end of your batting innings, and also to get Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma?
MICHAEL CLARKE: Yeah, two crucial wickets, two big prize wickets, aren't they? I've always said Mitchell making runs gives him confidence with the ball. I think tonight was a good example of that. Mitch is Mitch. He's a class performer, consistently. He probably hasn't had, you know, the standout tournament that everybody expects of him all the time. Because he's such a great performer, you expect him to take five wickets every time he walks out onto that field. But I think he's done a fantastic job for this team throughout this tournament. Two crucial wickets, like I said, and I couldn't be prouder of our bowling unit in general. I think every single one of them, once again, under pressure, stood up. I think James Faulkner is a really good example of didn't bowl as well as he would have liked in his first three overs but the way he come back and turned it around shows his attitude, shows his discipline. Pressure situations you have to be able to execute, and at the moment our attack is doing that.

Q. And just on Mitch again, he did step up when you needed him to. You were on a bit of a downer and --
MICHAEL CLARKE: Yeah, definitely. He's a wicket-taker. He's an X factor but he's got experience under pressure now. Dangerous weapon to have, and he's been the same his whole career. He's been exceptional. I love having him in the team. I love the fact, again, he's another example of someone that always puts the team first. He would love to open the bowling, but he knows it's best for the team at the moment that he bowls first change. Hasn't blinked once at it, doesn't bother him, and wants to win. That's what's most important.

Q. Michael, do you make a point of raising that collapse in Auckland with the team, or is that something you dealt with at that time and there's no point?
MICHAEL CLARKE: I think you've seen in the last few games that the way we've played, we've certainly improved in that area. I don't think we need to talk about it anymore. We'll talk about the New Zealand team once again, though. There's no doubt we'll study them, and we've been watching just about every game, as well, certainly myself and Buf have. So we know who we're up against. We know their strengths, we know their weaknesses, and we know they're at the top of their game at the moment playing really good cricket.

Q. And you had the two direct hits tonight. Darren Lehmann said before the tournament the best fielding team would go a long way to winning the World Cup. Do you think that might be the case in the bowling that the batting and bowling of the two teams will cancel each other out and the fielding might decide it?
MICHAEL CLARKE: I've said that my whole career. Fielding is massive in any form of the game. At the moment our fielding is exceptional. We dropped a couple of catches tonight. I wouldn't mind catching one of those high balls, but everyone else has been outstanding. Yeah, look, you have to bat -- all three facets of the game, you're going to have to do well to beat New Zealand in the final. There's no doubt about it.

Q. Michael, are you concerned that despite making the finals, there's questions about your play having really gone away, and do you feel the way the One Day game has moved, your batting style is a bit redundant for the modern game now?
MICHAEL CLARKE: I think I'm doing all right. I think my record is pretty good up against anybody in the world. I think my record holds its place. Yeah, I'm not concerned at all.

Q. Michael, did you think the 328 was enough, and at what stage in the Indian chase did you think that they were done?
MICHAEL CLARKE: I did think 320 was enough, but I thought our bowlers had to execute very well. India's batting lineup has been extremely successful throughout this tournament. They've got a lot of class, they've got a lot of experience in big games, in World Cups, as well. My opinion was we had to try and bowl India out. No matter how many runs we scored, we were going to try and bowl India out. Yeah, but I think the boys did really well to make 320 odd. I think that was still a fantastic performance.

Q. At what stage did you think that things were --
MICHAEL CLARKE: After the last wicket.

Q. Michael, despite not winning that game in New Zealand, do you think you guys actually were the team that take the most confidence from that, the fact that you were almost able to defend 150?
MICHAEL CLARKE: I think New Zealand will take confidence that they've beaten us in the tournament. But I believe that was the turning point in this tournament for the Australian team. I think that gave us a bit of a kick up the backside. We knew we got a good look at a very good team playing at the top of their game, certainly with the ball, and I think our attitude from that day has been exceptional. I think we've trained really well, we're prepared so well for every game. The boys have got out of bed every single day to try and become better, and I think you've seen that in our results, so I think we've been building -- we've grabbed momentum and we've tried to run with it and we've been improving every single game, and I think that'll hold us in really good stead for Sunday.

Q. Bearing in mind what you've been saying about New Zealand in the last few minutes, you've obviously watched a lot of the games. Is there one box that you would look at them and say, yep, they have ticked that well and truly? Is there one thing that they've done extremely well in your mind?
MICHAEL CLARKE: Yeah, I think their new ball bowling has been exceptional. I think we experienced that the game we played against them, and I think we've seen that throughout the tournament, that they've been able to swing the ball in New Zealand, but even if it hasn't swung, they've executed. They've bowled good areas. Yeah, we're going to have to make sure we bat well.

Q. You've had tremendous success as Australia, but after everything that's happened this summer, how much would it mean to win the World Cup on Sunday?
MICHAEL CLARKE: Yeah, it would be extremely special. There's no doubt about it. It's the pinnacle of One Day cricket. I think at the start of the tournament there was a lot of expectation and pressure put onto this team, the fact we were playing in our own backyard. So yeah, I think it would be the icing on the cake for the summer that the Australian cricket teams that had in both Test and One Day cricket. But I still think we're -- yeah, 100 overs is a long time in this game. I just think we've got some work to do over the next couple of days to make sure we're as well prepared as we can be, and if our attitude doesn't change and we stay as focused as we've been since that loss against New Zealand, I'm confident we can win this World Cup.

Q. Michael, Virat Kohli started off brilliantly in the Australian summer, so finally when you had him today so early, did you probably think that you had finally reined him in and was that the moment where you really thought the match was going your way because that was the general feeling that probably once Virat was out --
MICHAEL CLARKE: No, I didn't feel that at all. I think India have got more than one really good player. I think they've got a number of very good players, so we didn't feel like that. He's obviously a big player, extremely successful One Day record. There's no doubt about it. His record is phenomenal, and it takes a big player to get him out, and Mitchell Johnson stood up and did that for us tonight. I think Virat is a class player. I think he's shown that throughout the summer, shown it throughout his career. Yeah, I wouldn't be writing Virat Kohli off, that's for sure. He's got a lot of cricket left in him, a lot of runs left in him. It's just tonight Mitchell Johnson executed his skill very well and the ball didn't hit the middle of Virat's bat, which is a nice thing sometimes.

Q. Michael, the obligatory selection question.
MICHAEL CLARKE: Ask the selectors, remember?

Q. Two unchanged teams, do you think it would be difficult for selectors to change an 11 going into a conditions that you know pretty well?
MICHAEL CLARKE: I think if everyone is fully fit, it's going to be extremely hard to change the 11.

Q. Is there concerns about the fitness of any of them?
MICHAEL CLARKE: I don't think so. Hazlewood come off the field there at the end there with a sore thumb, but sounds to me like he's completely fine. He just wanted to rest up for the finals, so the youngster just took a few overs off. I think at this stage, everybody else is pretty good. But I'm not a selector.

Updated Date: Mar 27, 2015 08:26:29 IST