Sharjah: Australia take on Afghanistan on Saturday in a historic one-day match commencing from 6pm and expected to finish the next day at 1.45am at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. Never before in the history of the game has any team played a one-dayer past midnight, and it is bound to be an experience both players and spectators alike.
Australia skipper Michael Clarke says he cannot envisage what the experience will be like. He said: “You’ll have to ask me after the game what it will be like as we haven’t experienced that before. We are trying to go to bed later so that we can sleep longer in preparation for the game starting so late. It is going to be a bit difficult because for someone like me, I am normally in bed by 10.30pm. So it will be a big change for me. For the younger boys in the team, it is the time they start to kick and be at their best. It is going to be a challenge for both teams and one has to find a way to adapt to different conditions.”
Responding to a query from Gulf News about whether the conditions look favourable for his team, Clarke said: “Conditions do look good, the ground looks fantastic. The practice facilities where we trained are going to be very similar to that we are going to face in the game tomorrow. The wicket look very hard with no grass in it, and so I think as the games progresses, it might assist spin. Going on to the Pakistan series the wicket will spin more as we play on this pitch.”
So what kind of a challenge does he expect from Afghanistan? “They know the conditions a lot better than we do. They would have played in conditions like these where we haven’t played much. We need to get as much as possible from the training to get accustomed to the conditions. The Afghanistan team have a couple of good fast bowlers upfront and also some good spinners, be it left-arm or right arm. So we have to play some good cricket and we have to adjust to the conditions straight away to make sure we get the result we are after in this first match,” said Clarke, who added that he strongly believes that Afghanistan will go full out to prove their worth.
“Afghanistan may have probably played a lot of cricket in the couple of weeks in preparation for the T20 World Cup. So it is an opportunity for them to come here with nothing to lose and play the game. We are doing our best to get used to the heat. We do not really know what is it going to be like starting a game at 6pm. We have not done that before in one-day cricket, so there are some things that we are not accustomed to and we have to deal with. That is the big part of playing international cricket these days. You have to find a way to adapt, whether it is in different pitch, different opposition or different heat. Good teams do that, and so that is all we are looking forward to do in this first match.”
Clarke is not really focused about his team’s ranking, which has slipped from first to fourth in the ODI list. Australia, once the dominant force in cricket, are also third in the Test rankings behind top dogs South Africa and second-place England. “I am not really interested in the Test rankings at the moment,” Clarke continued. “Obviously our focus is on the one-day series, and the most important thing for the Australian team now is to get back play some really good, consistent one-day cricket. Our form in the recent UK tour was no where near where we wanted it to be and what we expect from an Australian team. We would like to turn that around here in the UAE and start off well against a good Afghanistan side.”