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Clarke smarting from 'kick up the backside'

Daniel Brettig

March 23, 2013

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Michael Clarke's reaction of disapproval as India's openers scored freely, India v Australia, 3rd Test, Mohali, 3rd day, March 16, 2013
"Everybody will walk out of India as a better player and certainly more well prepared next time we go there." © BCCI
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As Michael Clarke left for India in February, he forecast the tour as the most difficult of his captaincy. He landed back in Sydney on Sunday with that grim prognostication very much intact, having presided over three consecutive defeats, a breakdown of team discipline ruled punishable by the suspension of four players, and the further deterioration of his troublesome back.

In Clarke's absence from Delhi, the tourists have belatedly found some semblance of the competitive under the interim leadership of Shane Watson, showing a visible rise in aggression on the second afternoon. Clarke watched these events in Singapore between his flights, and said he hoped the team would salvage a belated reward from the tour with a closing victory.

Such a result would indicate some progress within the team, but there are plenty of questions to be asked of a tour that now seems as though it was doomed before it began due to the players' scant preparation, faulty skills and jaded attitudes. Answering for the results in a clipped manner, Clarke conceded the unprecedented events before the Mohali Test had been a "kick up the backside" for all.

"It certainly made us realise that what we thought were the little things are quite large in our group and important to our group having success," Clarke said. "I think the team have responded very well, the players who were left out have come back really well, and it's good to see a few of those guys getting opportunities in this Test.

"It was one of the toughest challenges of my career and I'm sure it has been for the other guys as well. Travelling to India and playing there is always tough. We knew we were going to face a lot of spin bowling and we have done. I think we'll learn from that, everybody will walk out of India as a better player and certainly more well prepared next time we go there for Test matches."

Better prepared for India perhaps, but the most pressing matter now is how this series sets up the team for the Ashes. Clarke's own fitness is clouded after he missed a Test match due to his back problems for the first time. Clarke also admitted he was still carrying a tender hamstring from the home summer, and said he would "do as I'm told" by medical staff in deciding whether or not to return to India for the IPL.

"I'll have scans this week and spend plenty of time with the physio, fingers crossed it turns out okay," Clarke said. "Sitting down for 12 hours has made it a little bit stiff, but I'm really confident that I'm in good hands with my physio here in Sydney.

"I'd be silly to make that decision [on the IPL] right now, I think I need to wait on the results, listen to the experts and then make a plan from there. I've had my back issues since I was 17 years of age so this is no different. In regards to my hamstring I hurt it throughout the Australian summer and it has just lingered on. I haven't had the opportunity to get that 100% fit due to how much cricket we've had."

Plenty of other questions about the tour remain to be satisfactorily answered. Clarke said his deputy Watson was not included alongside the coach Mickey Arthur and the team manager Gavin Dovey in discussions around the decision to suspend four players in Mohali because "he was one of the players the decision was getting made on" but was otherwise steadily involved in decision-making.

Nathan Lyon's handling across the trip has also been wondered at by many, his omission from the team to play in Hyderabad made to look still more bizarre by his success as a confident and aggressive off spinner in Delhi.

"I think it's exciting for him, again to get a little reward at the end of the tour would be very satisfying for him, and I think for the team if we could get a win in the last Test would show the hard work we've put in and the lessons we've learned. It would be lovely to take a little reward away."

Clarke offered no substantial explanation for his call to limit James Pattinson to two spells of three overs each on Australia's first bowling day of the series, despite the young fast bowler ripping out two early wickets and looking the team's most dangerous bowler by a distance at arguably its most pivotal point.

"It's just the way it goes, sometimes you bowl 15 overs straight or 21 overs straight like Nathan Lyon yesterday, sometimes you bowl short spells," Clarke said. "There was no real reason behind that."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by DeckChairand6pack on (March 25, 2013, 19:57 GMT)

If only Lyon and Siddle could bowl they would make half decent all rounders!

Posted by Raju_Iyer on (March 25, 2013, 10:45 GMT)

The beauty of this wonderful game is its unpredictability. Even as NZ are on the verge of defeating England in the final test, it is clear that no one can predict outcomes with certainty. Certainly even the most ardent of Indian fans could not have foreseen such complete dominance, so there is definite hope yet for the Ashes turning out to be an exciting contest

Posted by adityakrish7 on (March 25, 2013, 7:07 GMT)

Next time better prepared???This is exactly what they said when they came and lost here during 2008 and 2010..yet they learnt nothing...now after loosing 4-0,they are repeating the same answer..pity them!!

Posted by Meety on (March 25, 2013, 6:54 GMT)

@handyandy on (March 24, 2013, 11:02 GMT) - there is no history of Clarke alienating North. Katich was dropped from the Oz side for failing to disclose the extent of an injury during the Ashes which prevented him contributing properly to the team. Symonds was a train wreck waiting to happen.

Posted by Amith_S on (March 25, 2013, 6:45 GMT)

I am a big fan of Khawaja and Hughes. In Khawaja's case i also think he was dropped unfairly but many players before him have so i won't get into that call. THe key thing is he showed positive intend by going to the Bulls and the results were obvious, he is a great ambassador for the subcontinent community and the support on this site other other sites from our subcontinent fans shows that but he has to be picked on merit and runs only and on that basis he does deserve selection. No doubting he would have played today in Mohali, so lets hope we see him in Dehli in the 4th test. And I know Hughes had a dissapointing tour but he will get better in the ashes, stick with him.

Posted by bobagorof on (March 25, 2013, 5:46 GMT)

@handyandy: Has David Hussey managed to get his season's average above 21 yet? Despite his experience, it's no good picking a guy who can't score a run. That's why Ponting was tapped on the shoulder.

But selecting form domestic players is what kept Australia strong and helped to form a winning team. Drop non-performers and bring in someone who is in-form. Burns, Smith, Doolan, Khawaja, have all shown form this season. They're not stars yet, but they're all (reasonably) young and will be around for a while.

And look at what the coaching staff are actually telling the players. Watson's ungainly swipe and Maxwell's yahoo on a dodgy pitch did not convey a lot of smarts. What is the role of the coach regarding shot selection? Aren't they supposed to be helping them prepare properly?

Posted by bobagorof on (March 25, 2013, 5:30 GMT)

I'm really not surprised by the result, given the preparation (or lack thereof) and the selections that were made. The team arrived in dribs and drabs, trying to cover all bases (indicating that they didn't have a solid plan), and with personnel who were obviously out of form or selected on ODI performance. It's hard to remember a team with such a poor build-up to a series, except maybe the last time Australia went to India (with Hussey and Bollinger playing Twenty20 until a day or so before the Test). Australia got what they deserved.

Perhaps the management will decide to properly prepare players - if not having them arrive earlier, then preparing practice pitches at home that simulate conditions the way Hayden did in 2001 before his amazing series. Selecting based on form, too, was recommended by Argus but ignored for this series (Doherty and Maxwell). Picking players adept at the conditions (Smith, Khawaja) may have seen a better batting effort, too.

Posted by farkin on (March 25, 2013, 4:51 GMT)

its hard to make runs when there is only 6 batsmen in the team and 4 of them are bowlers

Posted by satishchandar on (March 25, 2013, 3:57 GMT)

IPL should be the last ting Clarke should be worrying at the moment. He has a back to back Ashes t look upon which will require him in full form and 100% fit..

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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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