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April 18, 2011
Michael Clarke is happy to admit he will not be completely respected as Australia's captain, within the team and without, until he can bolster his position with vital runs and major victories.
Important runs and series wins were ever present in the first part of Ricky Ponting's captaincy, but his power base began to erode from the moment the supplies of each began to thin, culminating in resignation from his post after failed Ashes and World Cup campaigns. Clarke began his tenure with a handsome enough ODI series win over Bangladesh. But he knows greater battles, and the presence he can gain by how he fights them, are yet to arrive.
"I certainly feel like I've got the support and respect as a player because I've played a lot of international cricket. For me it's about now gaining that respect as a captain and a leader and I guess the first and foremost way to do that is to have some success on the field, to get some wins," Clarke told ESPNcricinfo before his return home from Dhaka.
"Now is an opportunity for me to get home and have a really good think about what's happened over the last 12 months and where I see this team going over the next 12-24 months, and how we can set some goals and have some targets we try to achieve.
"I don't really know how the players feel, I guess they'd be happy because we got the result [in Bangladesh], we won and for me I didn't want to change too many things straight away, it was about coming here, training hard, preparing well and playing some good cricket on the filed. Now I've got this time to assess things, speak to the right people and get some guidance and some help, and assess where we're at."
Clarke's own batting is vital to the success of his leadership, and on the evidence of the summer's Ashes series he has much work to do. England's relentless line of attack around off stump left Clarke either fishing or floundering, and after nine Test matches at No.4 his average is a sick-looking 21.58, with only two half centuries.
There remains an observation of Clarke, common among former players, that his batting has lacked the knack for spinal innings in the vein of a Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, Mark Taylor or Allan Border. He has played some attractive and determined knocks, sure, but a gap exists in his CV when it comes to match and series-defining scores. In that sense Clarke's most memorable effort remains the 151 made on his Test debut against India at Bangalore in 2004, something he must transcend as captain.
"I think it is important to lead from the front no doubt," Clarke said. "Probably one of the things Ricky has taught me is that as a leader, as a senior player and certainly as the captain, you need to be standing up with the bat as a batsman, you need to be scoring runs. For me that's a big part of this team going forward, I'm now the captain and I want to stand up and make sure I'm leading from the front."
|"One of the things Ricky has taught me is that as a leader, as a senior player and certainly as the captain, you need to be standing up with the bat as a batsman, you need to be scoring runs." Michael Clarke knows he must bolster his captaincy with runs|
In the field, one of Clarke's greatest tasks will be to oversee the emergence of a penetrative and balanced Australian Test attack, following the ignominy of being made to look popgun on home soil during the Ashes. Key here will be his handling of spin bowlers, a constant source of weakness since Shane Warne retired.
"The one thing we need to continue to remember though is we're never going to get another Shane Warne. He's one of a kind and I think as the Australian public and the expectation we have with our spin bowlers, things have changed," said Clarke of a stable including Steve Smith, Michael Beer, Xavier Doherty, Jason Krejza and Nathan Hauritz.
"We certainly haven't got Warney, we've moved from that, but I do believe spin bowling will play a huge part in Australian cricket's success going forward, it's just about using them the right way, supporting them and getting the most out of what they do.
"Hopefully I can set some good fields and show them good faith and support them as much as I possibly can. We've got a good mix of talent in the spin area to do a job. Again, they're not Warney, but I think they can have a lot of success in international cricket."
The Australian team will reconvene in July for a pre-season camp at Coolum in Queensland, ahead of Test and limited-overs tours to Sri Lanka and South Africa.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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