Sydney: Australia captain Michael Clarke says his decision to retire from T20 cricket at the start of 2011 has made him a better player in the longer formats of the game.
Clarke had a dream Sydney Test, scoring a monumental 329 not out, taking the prized wicket of Sachin Tendulkar and captaining Australia to an emphatic win over India to go 2-0 up in the series.
The wicket, Clarke's 14th Indian wicket in his career Test haul of 24, was the icing on the cake and made him the undisputed Man of the Match. It was Clarke's first bowling stint in Tests this Australian summer season and came at a crucial point, with Tendulkar threatening to go on to post a huge score.
"It's a very nice wicket to have, that's for sure," Clarke said. "To be able to get such a great player out is a very handy wicket, so I was stoked with that."
But Clarke warned that Tendulkar would again threaten to dominate Australia's bowlers in the remaining two Tests of the series in Perth and Adelaide.
"Sachin's been such a great player for so long, everyone goes through that period," he said. "Touchwood, it's nice that he's not made his 100th hundred in this series, but there's a long way to go. Never write off great players. As a team we have the greatest of respect for him and we know we need to execute our skills against him or he'll make lots of runs."
Clarke's own form has been on the up. Since becoming captain and retiring from T20, Clarke has amassed 819 Test runs at an average of 68.25 and hit four hundreds.
"The greatest thing about the Twenty20 competitions is it is very individual, each individual player has the opportunity to make his own decision, and I think the T20 in Australia has been outstanding," Clarke said.
"I think I made the right decision to stand down from T20 cricket internationally and to focus on my one-day and Test cricket. I really thought I had to improve my game, to try to become the player I want to be, to become the best player I can possibly be."
"I don't know what my results say or my statistics over the last 12 months, but I feel my game is better now than it was 12 months ago, that is for sure."
Clarke took over the captaincy after Ricky Ponting stepped down, and led Australia to a drawn series against South Africa and New Zealand.
Clarke feels the added responsibility has not come in the way of his batting.
"Captaincy has probably put a bit of extra responsibility on me, but I don't feel like I have changed my game," Clarke said.
"I guess what I have worked on over the last 12 months is really trying hard to improve my game, facing our bowlers in the nets with brand new balls to improve my technique, facing a lot of spin on unprepared wickets to improve my game against spin when we travel to the subcontinent," he explained.
"This whole team, in my opinion, is heading in the right direction. We have a lot of work to do, but we are heading in the right direction and I am just enjoying the opportunity to lead so many good young players."