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Clarke seeks respect, within and without

Daniel Brettig

April 18, 2011

Comments: 44 | Text size: A | A

Michael Clarke caresses one through the off side, Bangladesh v Australia, 1st ODI, Mirpur, April 9, 2011
Michael Clarke's batting is vital to the success of his leadership. © Associated Press
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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 ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Something_Witty on (April 20, 2011, 11:03 GMT)

Well said Biggus. *Stands and applauds*

Posted by Biggus on (April 20, 2011, 10:08 GMT)

@5wombats-Glad to see you've woken up mate. I was beginning to think there were no fish here at all. Just having some fun. "Self-loathing hand wringing not a winning strategy?". How terribly bolshy! Standards everywhere are in decline!

Posted by 5wombats on (April 20, 2011, 8:26 GMT)

@Biggus; ha ha! Self-loathing and handwringing went out of fashion in England in about 1998 as it was seen not to be a winning strategy. Now it's someone elses' turn - @Meety by the look of it. But seriously; I just got back from Sydney and have a lot of mates there. They'll all convinced that Clarke is the only choice. There seems to be a lot of confusion about what has happened to Australia in the past 2 years seen in newspapers, bar chat, etc. The position seems to be that Clarke is a bit of a glamour boy and when the expectation on him is cranked up he finds it hard to perform. This had better not be true! Yes - previous results are history - but you have to learn from history otherwise you end up making the same mistakes. Clarkes biggest challenge is to learn the lessons and then bring on Australias next generation, something the previous incumbant evidently failed to do. I like Clarke and I think he can do it. I genuinely wish him well.

Posted by Biggus on (April 20, 2011, 4:05 GMT)

All this rehashing of the Ashes is a bit redundant. I can understand England fans wanting to do so, after all it's the most wonderful thing that's happened to their team for many a year-the apparent end of a long, long winter of discontent, but their erratic display in the world cup has posed some questions as to what we are witnessing. A great England resurgence or just a wild, uninhibited 'Summer of Love' down under? I wouldn't be quite so sanguine if I were an MCC fan. They played like champs and we like mugs, but I can't see us going 23 years before we win another series in England. The dominant win is now the least of England's concerns, as they must now show it wasn't a flash in the pan. Don't waste too much time crowing over our troubles guys. We'll be back, and sooner than our opponents would wish, then our MCC friends can revert to the self-loathing hand wringing that has always been so endearing.

Posted by Wozza-CY on (April 20, 2011, 1:19 GMT)

@5wombats- Nothing new about Oz losing in India, 2-1 in England was a close series, vs Pak in Eng, no history on that one! The 3-1 recent Ashes series was a hiding & ozzies are the first to admit that & also that we were totally outplayed. There were a lot contributing factors to that drubbing, Eng were responsible for a lot of that with their preparation & play. The slide you point out is 'undeniable' (that's the destination south of 'Denial') & @landl47 Clarke prob doesn't have the players to reach heights of Oz cricket in the past decade, but I'm not sure most Aussie fans expect that. With the right selections, change in attitude & some 'form' Oz teams should do much better than recent efforts. Pontings career Avg is 53 & in the last Ashes is was 16. So is that poor form or is he just rubbish? Clarke avg is 46 & in that series is was 21. To contrast this Trott, Peitersen & Cook were all above their career averages in the recent ashes, proving they were in good 'form'.

Posted by Meety on (April 20, 2011, 0:12 GMT)

So when its all said & done, the Ashes are yesterdays news. The only series that matters to me at the moment is the SL series in August. It will be interesting to see if Malinga plays ALL 3 tests. No Vaas no Murali, new captain for SL, they are beatable. Oz have plenty of untried players that NEED to be on that tour, guys like Copeland, Butterworth, & O'Keefe. The real test of whether the Shield comp is in decline we will be in how the newer players perform. Much brighter immediate future then Vacant slips, wombats, Maddys & ivan lendls think!

Posted by Meety on (April 20, 2011, 0:06 GMT)

(Cont) - For the immediate future an Oz side that contains Watto, Punter, Pup & Hussey, with Haddin @7, is as good/comparable as any top 7 in the world. Oz have 2 spinners who were/are better then the 2 that were used this summer. Hauritz actually outbowled Swann in the 2009 Ashes taking more wickets in a head to head with Swann over the first 3 Tests. O'Keefe has a World Class 1st class ave of 24, & takes almost 4 wickets a match, he was overlooked for players with averages over 40. O'Keefe or Hauritz or both would not of won the Ashes for Oz, but the difference would of been dramatically reduced. The difference between Oz & England is NOT as big as people think. Whilst the Oz side is nowhere near as strong as say 2007/08, not many sides can say that either. Sth Africa, Oz, NZ, Pakis are not as strong as 2 or 3 yrs ago, SL will drop soon without the Murali factor, England are the only side to have improved in this period, & COULD continue. India are on the verge of a BIG fall! TBC

Posted by Meety on (April 19, 2011, 23:49 GMT)

(cont) - Cook was ALMOST dropped prior to the Ashes, a scratchy ton against the Bangas saved him. He then comes to Oz & does then better then ANYBODYS wildest dreams. The questions are - Is Cook on the verge of plundering the world like Bradman? or Was his Ozzy summer a freak alignment of the cricketing Gods producing a near perfect summer? I thought Trott was brilliant, is he going to continue on in that vein? I was most impressed by Englands back up bowlers, we've discussed this (Wombats), before, & I think Tremlett & Bresnan were better then Broad & Finn, & they are what swung the series back Pommie's way after 1all. 4. Oz's best players underperformed. How much of that was because of England being in-form versus Oz players out of form is debatable. I believe its a healthy mix of both. Punter being caught twice down the legside suggests to me a bit of under performance, the tight lines most of the Pommie bowlers operated on, suggest out performed.

Posted by Meety on (April 19, 2011, 23:41 GMT)

@5wombats - when discussing the term "form", you must conceed that there is an element of subjectivity. Form generally suggests a player is performing better then their usual output. The Ashes in Oz IMO - was about 1) England coming to Oz better prepared then Oz, (remembering Oz administraters capitulating to India & alowing a 2- Test series on the eve of the Ashes). Oz handed over home ground advantage, because Oz players had to re-acclimatise to their own pitches & conditions. On that front England had more time on Oz pitches! 2) Selection blunders. Not the prime reason Oz lost, but it led to a destabilised outfit. Hauritz would NOT of won Oz the Ashes, but had to be given the first 3 tests, & would of performed better then Doherty & Beer. 3) England players had players in FORM. Cook is a very interesting case. He put in a Bradmanesque summer. I've watched Cook coming thru the ranks, always knew he would play for England. Thought he'd end up on a par with say Vaughn. TBC

Posted by 5wombats on (April 19, 2011, 20:52 GMT)

Oh dear, oh dear @Hatsforbats; you've got a very bad case of it. Lets start by examining "form". Ok. Aus lost 2-0 in India, lost 2-1 in England, could only manage 1-1 against a weak Pak side (in bowler friendly good 'ole England) and then lost 3-1 at home to England. Is that "just poor form" or is it "just not a very good side". Mmm... tricky. You'd better hope that your new captain has a different definition of "form" to the one you have. It nice to see that one or two Aussies are still enjoying that wonderful cruise destination Denial. Keep sending the postcards guys!

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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