'We're starting to see the real Michael Clarke' - Taylor
Michael Clarke's unbeaten 329, and the manner of its conclusion, have made "enormous inroads" for him to be respected by all in Australia and beyond, former captain Mark Taylor has said. Having made a similarly significant score and declaration when unbeaten on 334 against Pakistan in Peshawar in 1998, Taylor believed Clarke would have very few detractors left after spending time as a polarising figure when vice-captain to Ricky Ponting.
It should not be forgotten that Taylor's own successful tenure as captain of Australia was preceded by a period of doubts about his capabilities. Allan Border's deputy, Taylor, had his fitness, batting style and suitability for one-day cricket questioned, and was even dropped to 12th-man duties at the conclusion of a poor summer against West Indies in 1992-93. However he flourished when granted the captaincy in 1994, and said Clarke had made a similar graduation.
"You earn respect by the gestures and what you do in the game, the way you play the game," Taylor said. "I think all these things will really help Michael Clarke. But I really think since he's become the full-time captain, we're now starting to see who Michael Clarke really is.
"I think up to that stage, when you're vice-captain, particularly when you're vice-captain to a guy like Ricky who has been around for so long, been such a good player, captained three in World Cups, it's hard to do the vice captaincy job right and keep everyone happy. In fact it's impossible. I think a lot of people focused on the negatives of Michael Clarke, but now he is the main man and I think we're starting to see the real Michael Clarke."
As a Cricket Australia board director, Taylor was one of the power-brokers who approved Clarke's ascension to the captaincy, while as part of the Argus review panel he has played a key role in building the new support structure around him. He said Clarke had always shown a genuine love of and flair for the game, but it was only now as captain that many in the public could take notice of this.
"I think he's made enormous inroads this summer and I'm delighted to see it because personally, I've always been a big supporter of Michael Clarke," Taylor said. "I've seen for a number years what people are now seeing from Michael Clarke. He's a guy who loves the game of cricket and I don't think people have quite understood that with Michael.
"He had an opportunity to make the world Test record today, there's no doubt about that. He needed another 72 to break the record. He could've done that and still had two days to bowl India out and win this Test match. He could've achieved both goals but what he wanted to say is 'yes, I want to do well myself, every player does and that's human nature, but I want to captain a side that's going to win first' and that's a very important thing to have."
In Peshawar, Taylor spent a night unbeaten on Don Bradman's 334 before deciding to declare, and said Clarke's innings and its circumstances brought back plenty of memories. In any innings of that magnitude the batsman can become locked into a "zone" of timing and concentration, where it is their own fatigue and lack of a clear goal that can dismiss them as much as any bowler.
"Having watched Michael today, you get to the stage when you get to 200 plus where you are really in that zone Greg Norman [the golfer] talked about," Taylor said. "Every ball is hitting the middle of your bat and I couldn't see him getting out, to me I only experienced it once in my career and that was in Peshawar on the second day.
"Michael hopefully - he is a younger man than I was - will get a chance to experience it again, because it took me right until the end of my career to get to that stage. It's [about] continuing to look for some reason to keep going, because the first thing you are told as a batsman is to get a 100 … then you get to 200 and you think 'I've now got a big 100 - how many more do I get?'
"That's when people often dong one up in the air or play a shot they haven't played for two or three hours. Michael kept going all the way and it was only the first ball after he got to 300 that he had a big flash at a wide one. That's the one you could easily nick and be out for 303 and look back on that one ball as the only time you didn't concentrate for ages. That can happen when you get to a score like that and you start getting tired."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo