LONDON: Former Australia captain Michael Clarke on Wednesday preferred playing Yuvraj Singh ahead of Ajinkya Rahane as defending champions India begin their ICC Champions Trophy campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on Sunday.
Clarke's comments came after former India skipper Mohammed Azharuddin said Yuvraj and veteran wicketkeeper-batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni are indeed not the same finishers they were a few years ago.
"I'd go with the two most experienced players in Yuvraj and Dhoni. This is their time to really stand up. You do need the mix of youth and experience in the team. But if I have to pick between Yuvraj and Rahane, I would go with the experienced player," Clarke said at the Aaj Tak Salaam Cricket 2017 here.
"MS Dhoni for me is a no-brainer. You have got to pick him. He was outstanding in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and still capable to win matches for the Indian team," he added.
Former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara said the Dhoni factor will be the key for India in the June 1 to 18 tournament in England and Wales.
"Dhoni has been a bedrock of support for Steve Smith in Rising Pune Supergiant and for Virat Kohli in the Indian team," Sangakkara said.
The Ranchi stumper stepped down from the national team's captaincy in January and handed over the mantle to Kohli. He was later replaced by Smith to lead the IPL-10 runners-up Pune.
"With MS as a wicketkeeper, he brings so much to the Indian side. His role in his own team in the IPL is also very similar to his role in the Indian team. He's not the captain anymore in both sides," Sangakkara said.
Clarke picked England, Australia, South Africa and India as the semi-finalists in the Champions Trophy, to which the other three -- Azharuddin, Sangakkara and Smith also agreed.