Former captains stand by Clarke
A chorus of former Australian captains stood staunchly behind the incumbent Michael Clarke after he faced questions about his leadership upon his return home from a dreadful Test series defeat at the hands of Pakistan in the UAE.
Clarke's appearance at an event to mark 100 days until the start of next year's World Cup rather summed up the fact that few think he is going anywhere, and there was uniform support from Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh and Allan Border under the gaze of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
All Clarke's recent predecessors, including the absent Mark Taylor, have faced periods when their captaincy was under threat - Border once even threatening to give up the job if his team did not rally behind him during a New Zealand tour in the dark days of 1986. So they spoke with authority about Clarke's still vital role in consolidating the gains of last summer.
"I think that was quite ridiculous to tell the truth, the team's done some amazing things in the last couple of years and got themselves back up to No. 1 in two forms of the game at least and had some amazing series whitewashes," Ponting said of Clarke's captaincy being in question.
"We know that out of the last couple of weeks the guys didn't handle the conditions that well over there but at the end of the day it's two Test matches and a bit of a blip on what's been a pretty good copybook over the last couple of years. Hopefully they can learn from their mistakes over the last couple of weeks and move on and be a better team in Asia for coming tournaments."
Steve Waugh joked that Clarke did in fact have to go, before speaking more earnestly about the 33-year-old's value. "I can't understand it," Waugh said. "Every player goes through a time when they're not scoring runs but he's had an incredible run, 5-0 against England last year, beating South Africa away was an amazing result for Australia.
"So you've got to put it in context, he didn't play well, it was two Test matches, so let's judge the side after another 6-12 months and see how they're going, but I think he's done a fantastic job."
Border, who led Australia the last time the World Cup was hosted on these shores in 1992, concurred that Clarke needed to be assessed over a longer period than the past two Tests. "I'm very surprised anyone's questioning that," he said. "We've got short memories, a couple of weeks of poor cricket doesn't change the quality of the captain, so I think he's definitely the right bloke."
As for Clarke's self-analysis, he has said that he still feels he has plenty to give and to achieve over the next 12 months or more, including the forthcoming series against South Africa and India, the World Cup and another Ashes tour.
"We did pretty well to win the Ashes 5-0," Clarke said. "I hope I'm doing the team justice as their leader, as captain, but I guess the selectors make that decision and the Cricket Australia board make that decision.
"If they think there's someone better for the job, if they think my time is up as captain, then I'm sure they'll let me know. But, from my perspective, I feel like I've still got a lot to offer the team. My performances over the past five years have been pretty consistent and I think my captaincy's been pretty consistent over that period as well, so hopefully I'm not judged just on two Test matches."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig