India hurt, but I have no regrets - Clarke
Almost a year ago to the day, Michael Clarke sat at Lord's embarrassed by his team's 347-run hammering which had seen them go 2-0 down in the Ashes. It was a low point, another one for Clarke in what was developing into a horrendous year for Australia but which finished with them overwhelming England in the return series.
A few months previously, on the tour of India, Clarke had been involved in the decision to suspend four players in an incident dubbed 'homework-gate' after Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson and Usman Khawaja had failed to follow team orders between the second and third Tests of a series Australia went on to lose 4-0.
At the time Clarke made clear he was supportive of the disciplinary measures taken alongside Mickey Arthur, the coach, who would be sacked just days before the Ashes series in England began to be replaced by Darren Lehmann. And now, looking back at what he terms the "toughest period" of his captaincy, Clarke is adamant he has no regrets.
"In the build up to that event, there were a number of things that occurred over a long period of time; it wasn't just that event," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "Mickey drew a line in the sand and yes, I was a part of it, I stand by that, but I don't regret it one bit. I backed my coach, I supported him and I believe the decision, especially now that I look back, was the best decision for Australian cricket."
However, what really cut to the core for Clarke was the label attached to his side during, and after, that tour of India. "I was more disappointed and upset at the fact a team I was captaining was labelled the worst Australian team to tour India; I blame me."
Of those players suspended for the Mohali Test, only Khawaja has now faded from the scene after playing three of the Ashes Tests in England. Watson returned to captain Australia in the final Test of the India series when Clarke was injured and would end up playing all 10 Tests in the back-to-back Ashes.
Johnson returned to the side against England in Brisbane with devastating effect and Pattinson, who began the Ashes in England before succumbing to another injury, regained his Test berth for the decider against South Africa in Cape Town, although he is once again under the cloud of a back problem.
The victory against South Africa at Newlands continued Australia's resurgence and a couple of months later, when the ICC rankings were updated, they had edged above South Africa into the No. 1 position. But Clarke is now determined to look forward at a period where his team will play Test series against Pakistan in UAE and India at home before the World Cup and then an Ashes rematch later in 2015.
"There's a hell of a lot still to achieve, I think our team's still growing," Clarke said. "I still don't think we're at our best as a group, but we're extremely proud of what we have achieved. We've got India, a tough test team coming to Australia this summer, and then we go back to England next summer for the Ashes, so there's still a lot of tough cricket in front of us, but we're excited by that."