Australia v India, 3rd Test, Perth

Pleased captaincy hasn't affected my batting - Clarke

Brydon Coverdale in Perth

January 12, 2012

Comments: 15 | Text size: A | A

Michael Clarke glances one fine, Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney, 1st day, January 3, 2012
Michael Clarke: "I think my game is continuing to improve." © Getty Images
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Being handed the Test captaincy can weigh on the mind of a batsman when he's at the crease. Was it a mistake to bat first? Should I rein in my game to set an example? What happens if I fail a few times? What will our bowlers do on this pitch? When should I declare? The ideal captain is a man who can compartmentalise and focus on his own game when necessary, but keep the big picture in the back of his mind.

In that respect, Michael Clarke has been the perfect leader in the first ten Tests of his captaincy career. His unbeaten 329 at the SCG last week was a fine example: a well-paced innings full of determination that ended with a declaration that was designed only to give his team the best possible chance of victory. Personal milestones were ignored.

It was also his fourth hundred in ten Tests as captain. As leader, he has averaged 59.18. Ricky Ponting didn't manage a Test hundred as skipper until his tenth match in charge. Brian Lara took even longer. Sachin Tendulkar averaged 34.61 from his first ten Tests as captain. Not since Allan Border has Australia had a leader whose own game has thrived so much in the initial stages at the helm.

Clarke brushes off the idea that he has lifted his batting as leader. The stats suggest he is being overly modest. But what he doesn't deny is that it has been pleasing to prove that the captaincy has not been a burden on his own batting.

"It's nice to be getting some results now and it's even more special being captain," Clarke said. "There's always that stigma that the extra responsibility can affect your batting, so I'm pleased that it hasn't. But I don't feel any different, to be honest.

"I feel I'm doing the hard work and it's nice to see some results but I know things change quickly. I could be sitting here in a couple of games time under pressure that I haven't scored any runs. It's about making sure that my work ethic off the field is my No.1 priority.

"I think my game is continuing to improve. I hope it is. I think results have probably shown me that it is. I don't feel I've changed much since becoming captain. I feel I'm still able to do the work [on my batting] that I need to do in the nets, to prepare and improve on my weaknesses. That's what I've tried to do over the last two years."

After an innings of such strength and control as his tripled-hundred in Sydney, Clarke appears to be in the best form of his career. That it follows a captain's century in trying conditions in Cape Town in November and another ton against New Zealand in Brisbane in the first Test of the summer, only adds to the idea. But Clarke himself is not convinced.

"If I go and get a pair in this Test match, I'm then talking about my spot in the team, as I was two weeks ago," he said. "One innings ... it's fantastic, don't get me wrong, it's great to have made some runs in Sydney to contribute to the success we've had in this series so far … but it's irrelevant right now. It's gone. It's a completely different wicket, we're in completely different conditions, and I'm on zero when I walk out to bat."

And that different pitch is very different indeed. Australia and India were greeted in the few days before the Test, which starts on Friday, by a WACA surface with plenty of grass on it. The curator, Cameron Sutherland, expects pace and bounce just like last summer, when Australia used the conditions to complete their only win of the Ashes campaign. Clarke is looking forward to playing on the Perth pitch.

"I prefer the pace," he said. "I think I've had my most success in Australia on wickets like the Gabba and here in Perth. I like the ball coming on. For smaller guys like myself, it means you don't have to try and hit the ball too hard, you can use the pace to your advantage. And they're probably the best conditions to face spin on, because the ball bounces a lot more and you can hit through the line.

"But on wickets like this that do have pace and bounce it's really hard to start your innings. You'll see a lot of players through this Test match who will nick, it'll find the edges of their bat. But I think once you get in, generally the faster, bouncier wickets are as good to bat on as anywhere in the world."

That won't necessarily mean that he chooses to bat if he wins the toss. Nor will he second-guess his own decision once it is made. And when he's at the crease, don't expect anything but the battle between bat and ball to weigh on his mind.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (January 13, 2012, 7:23 GMT)

In contrast, look at MSD, the Indian Captain.

Posted by   on (January 13, 2012, 5:10 GMT)

india need to play better cricket , selectors please dont allow any player to play for

the personal record.

Posted by Rooboy on (January 13, 2012, 4:31 GMT)

I would say captaincy has affected Clarke's batting, in a positive manner. @CricLook - trite comment ... four tons in ten matches since becoming captain ... it's not one swallow, is it? @ajayrcs - why wait till the end of this series? Many seem to believe that world cricket revolves around india, but Clarke has already captained a winning series in SL (when was the last time india did that?) and drew a series away against a side ranked a couple of places above Aus. Not to mention an impressive win-loss ratio as an ODI captain. Winning a home series against this weak indian team will be the least of Clarke's achievements, and prove less than he already has proven in other series.

Posted by Kreacher_Rocks on (January 13, 2012, 0:45 GMT)

A tongue in cheek way of putting things would be that Dhoni's captaincy hasn't affected his batting either. He has been rubbish in tests prior to becoming a captain and has only continued to be so after.

Posted by peterss on (January 13, 2012, 0:17 GMT)

Dhoni can never say the same!

Posted by Meety on (January 12, 2012, 23:47 GMT)

Some of the reasons I was excited about Pup's appointment as captain was 1) He appeared to absorb a lot from Warney (Oz's best test captain that never was), 2) His captaincy in ODIs & T20s was usually perfect with a touch of Tubby Taylor & Warney ( a great mix), AND 3. In ODI's as captain his average is about 4 or 5 runs better than his norm. ATM - that trend is continuing through to his test captaincy. Good onya Pup! I think he is already Oz's best captain since Tubby Taylor (the best captain I've ever seen), & could over a long tenure become Oz's greatest captain. He already has far more affinity with Lyon, then Punter (love the guy) ever could. His knack of using Hussey is straight of the Tubby Taylor manual IMO. When he gets his best attack on the park (Pattinson, Cummins, Harris, O'Keefe & Watto), man it will be sweet. Just on Watto, I think he should be rested until the WIndies tour.

Posted by   on (January 12, 2012, 22:52 GMT)

... or maybe it's just moving back to 5 where he has always averaged mid 50s.

Posted by   on (January 12, 2012, 21:51 GMT)

Dhoni does not deserve a place in Indian Test team and he is captain - what a joke??

Posted by donda on (January 12, 2012, 19:45 GMT)

Too earlier to predict what Clarke will achieve as captain. he is batting good and his team is not losing series and wining some. As long as team is not losing , you are a good captain. The day you lose a test whether you are batting like bradman does not matter.

the day clarke will start losing series , then we will have better idea how good he is as batsman and captain. It's too earlier to judge. May be next Ashes series will decide how good he is.

Posted by RandyOZ on (January 12, 2012, 14:23 GMT)

Slightly worrying statements. Ponting only got better with the captaincy, he loved the extra pressure. I hope Clarke embraces it the same and get his average up above 50 like it should be.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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