Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney, 2nd day January 4, 2012

Clarke wants to continue earning respect

53

With 251 not out next to his name, and a match-defining partnership of 288 alongside Ricky Ponting in his pocket, Michael Clarke was given a moment to savour at the press conference after a landmark day for his Australian team. Standing to one side in the room was a columnist who had written derisively of Clarke in the past. His criticism of Clarke peaked in late 2009 with the following line: "His problem is a little more delicate. Michael Clarke is a tosser. Or, to give him an out clause, he appears to be a tosser."

When the juncture arrived for the author of that line to pose a question, he asked Clarke about what an innings like this would do for him in the "big picture". A voracious reader of the press and now a columnist himself, Clarke knew whom he was speaking to. His response carried a pointed word.

"Hopefully, it helps me continue to earn respect," Clarke said. "That's all I can do, and most importantly that helps me put this team in a position to win another Test match. That's our goal; that's my goal - to help Australia win as many games as we can.

"One of the things Punter [Ricky Ponting] taught me before I got the captaincy was as a leader you need to make sure you're standing up on the field; make sure you're leading from the front and scoring runs, and that's what I've tried to do since taking over the captaincy."

Respect is something Clarke has had to battle hard to gain, but he is now earning it in vast swathes with nimble captaincy and batting of increasing presence. He began the second day at the SCG as the recipient of ABC's Alan McGilvray award for Australia's cricketer of the year. The honour came as no surprise to anyone who had seen him lead a young team through its regeneration after Ponting gave up the captaincy following failed Ashes and World Cup campaigns.

"We're a team that's learning," Clarke said. "Young guys are getting a bit of experience and working out that winning Test matches is hard work. There's a really good feeling within the team but that's obviously because we're getting a bit of success.

"Our preparation couldn't be better, we just need to keep building on that consistency, continuing to do our work; and when you get chances in a game you've got to grab them with both hands. If India get on top of you, they're a really hard team to stop, so we've got to make sure that when we've got momentum we keep the ball rolling."

So far in Sydney, Clarke's team have demonstrated how much they are learning, against an Indian side that can only hope for a merciful declaration on the third day. Mindful of how the pitch had evolved from sporting on the first day to friendly on the second, Clarke said he would focus on getting quick runs and giving his bowlers maximum time to bowl the visitors out a second time.

"The track has flattened out a lot compared to day one, so the most important thing for us is making sure there's enough time left in the game to give ourselves a chance to bowl India out. I think we need to bat well tomorrow morning to set the game up. We're a long way from being 2-0 up, a lot of hard work needs to go in, but we're in a really good position."

As befits a captain in the middle of a Test, Clarke was more reticent to speak about his own unfinished innings, coruscating as it has been. He has the painful memory of Cape Town last year, when a sparkling innings was overshadowed by a harrowing defeat, to remind him against triumphalism.

"It's my highest score ever, I don't really know [if it is my best innings]," he said. "I was really proud of the 151 against South Africa; it came in really tough circumstances and that pitch did a lot more than this pitch did. But what makes me proud is I batted the whole day today.

"That's something I've always tried to do and haven't done very often, so that's very satisfying to bat a full day. It's fantastic to have a score beside my name like I do, but as I've seen in the past if you don't win the Test match, it means nothing."

At 251, Clarke has a galaxy of further batting milestones ahead to chase, but he is not thinking too much about them. On debut in Bangalore in 2004 he had been so concerned with mythology that he called for his baggy green cap to reach three figures in, even though India's fast bowlers were on. This time, he said, there would be no such request if he went past 300.

"I think I was a bit silly back then as a kid. I'll be keeping my helmet on if the fast bowlers are on."

Respected and respectful, Clarke has come a long way. He can rightly expect to never again be the subject of words so unkind.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • HatsforBats on January 5, 2012, 6:38 GMT

    @ landl47; Ponting will go down as one of the greatest batsmen to have played the game, nobody cares about losing 3 ashes series except Ponting. He's also a comparable captain to the overly defensive Strauss (really not sure why he's in the team to be honest, it's not his tactical nous and it's certainly not his batting). I don't recall England handling Hilf & Sid easily in the 09 Ashes when they were leading wicket takers. By the way, how long since England produced top class batsmen? 5 or 6 years? Keep importing them from SA & Ireland mate, they're better than Shah, Bopara, Tredwell, Collingwood etc.

  • shasi21 on January 5, 2012, 4:55 GMT

    Outstanding Innings by Clarke, full credit to him. Being a Indian supporter, I really enjoyed Clark's Innings.

    I think Team India should take Ishant out of the team. He is not even performing well in Sub-Continent and also in overseas for the past few years. Being a stike bowler for India he doesn't know how to bowl a good length delivery. Ishant bowls away from the batsmen or bowls a short pitch delivery and the batsmen score easy runs. Look Patterson, Hilfi and siddle, they bowled really well with good line and length which makes the Indian batsmen to stuggle to get runs.

    Congrats Clarke, I wish you to score more runs in cricket.

  • dummy4fb on January 5, 2012, 4:08 GMT

    It is difficult to understand why Clarke would not have pushed in to get past the 400 world record. As a Windies fan I am grateful. However, to be on 329 with an hour to go before tea on the 3rd day with the bowling at your mercy.....hmmmm.

  • dummy4fb on January 5, 2012, 3:36 GMT

    Clarke show that how to play test cricket. Ponting,Hussey come back in form. It makes Indians horrible.....

  • mansel on January 5, 2012, 3:06 GMT

    Prash Smith - to say you don't rate Clarke and making excuses about your bowling attack and lack of a spinning track etc etc. is really bad sportsmanship and reeks of excuse making. He has flogged your bowling attack which is part of the second best test side in the world. There are no excuses. Clarke is a fine batsmen who has made a mockery of your side this test.

  • Simoc on January 5, 2012, 2:26 GMT

    It doesn't get much better for Clarke personally, 300+ in a test in front of his home crowd as captain and showing off his immense batting skills.

  • AidanFX on January 5, 2012, 1:52 GMT

    Suddenly Clarke goes from the tage "Most overrated player" - to now "Most underrated player" - interesting world this is hey?

  • landl47 on January 5, 2012, 1:14 GMT

    Australia under Clarke look a much more positive side than they did under Ponting. Ponting was fine when everything was going well, but when times got tough he looked unimaginative and indecisive. He was lucky to have a great side to lead in his early years, but he'll still go down as the first Australian captain in modern times to lose 3 Ashes series. Clarke's going to have it much tougher. He has a couple of good young bowling prospects in Pattinson and Cummins, but otherwise the bowling isn't great (sorry, my Aus friends, but Siddle and Hilf are the same bowlers England handled easily and Lyon is nowhere near a test spinner). The batting is extremely vulnerable and what's disturbing is that the younger players just don't look top class. With Ponting and Hussey, at 37 and 36, at the end of their careers and no-one on the horizon, Clarke's going to have a very hard time keeping Aus in games. I like him and I wish him good luck- he'll need it.

  • Mitcher on January 4, 2012, 23:43 GMT

    Great knock Clarke! Good to see 3 impressive knocks since taking captaincy that have come with the team under great pressure. While he has previously not always played his best cricket with the team under pressure, the disgraceful abuse some have heaped on a good man has been way over the top. Even when he was in a slump there was little doubt he remained one of the best 6 batsmen in Australia (painfully proven by the difficulty the new guys are having). Hopefully the haters can now realise he is easily Australia's best option as captain and a must in the batting line up if this team is to develop.

  • dummy4fb on January 4, 2012, 22:15 GMT

    I dont rate Clarke as a batsman despite his double century. He's apparently a good player of spin of course but then there's very few spin friendly tracks around. The Indian bowling attack was very limp hence why the Australians had several players score over 50.

  • No featured comments at the moment.