SYDNEY: Australia skipper Michael Clarke is confident his side will have no problem handling the weight of local expectation when they meet reigning champions India in a blockbuster World Cup semi-final on Thursday.
Australia’s four titles make them the most successful team in World Cup history but only Clarke, Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson survive from their last triumph in 2007 and they have never won the trophy on home soil.
They can remove that anomaly in Melbourne next weekend but first they need to get past an unbeaten India side packed with players who know exactly what it takes to win the tournament.
“We’re about to find out,” Clarke told reporters when asked how his players would deal with the pressure.
“I think you’ve seen the guys handle it really well throughout the tournament, the way the boys played in the quarter-final against Pakistan was extremely pleasing.
“Expectation is there because we are the number one ranked team in the world, the expectation is put on you because you have performed.
“Individually, you feel that on a day-to-day basis as an international sportsman. There’s been a lot of talk about pressure and expectation but that comes with the role.
“I think the boys will be fine.”
While accepting that big match experience was important, Clarke said fearless youth also had an important place in the make-up of a well-balanced side.
“We have some older players who have the experience of playing in World Cups, who have the experience of winning World Cups, and we have some younger players with unbelievable talent, no fear at all,” he said.
Clarke, projecting a calm he undoubtedly hopes will rub off on his side, said the secret of Australia’s success had been in doing the same things consistently well.
Nobody should expect that to change just because they are playing a World Cup semi-final.
“As big as this event is, as a player, it’s no different to any other game,” he added.
“I think you don’t do yourself justice if your attitude changes because of the event.
“I can’t try any harder, I can’t train any harder.
“Our focus for the last couple of years has been the consistency of preparation, which has given us the consistency of performance.”
Clarke said his tactics had always been about taking as many wickets and scoring as many runs as possible. His recipe for success on Thursday was equally straightforward.
“We have to score one more run than India.”