Clarke plays down vice-captaincy aspirations
Michael Clarke will wait for news from the selectors on whether he is elevated to the vice-captaincy following Adam Gilchrist's retirement. Clarke was Australia's captain during the Twenty20 international against New Zealand last month, when he expressed his leadership aspirations, but after posting his sixth Test century he said there was only a light-hearted application being made for the position.
"One came from Haydos," Clarke said. "I said to him: 'Are you retiring as well?' He said: 'Not now, I'm a chance of getting a stripe.' We had a joke about it but other than that it hasn't been spoken about."
Clarke and Michael Hussey are the main contenders for the spot and the pair was involved in an on-field exercise on the fourth day when Hussey was operating as Ricky Ponting's runner. Ponting, who scored 140 and combined for a 210-run stand with Clarke, suffered a lower back injury and did not field as India reached 1 for 45 at stumps. However, he is expected to return to guide the team on the final day.
The Clarke-Ponting partnership allowed Australia to dream of a lead, which eventually stopped at 37, and they retain hope of repeating the miracle last-day win against England in 2006. Clarke raised a century in that match as well and his hard-working 118 today was a mixture of attacking bursts and considered play.
"The easiest time to score was when the ball was new and hard, so it was our intention to come out and be positive with the new ball," he said. "Once it got softer and started to go reverse - they also bowled a lot of spin - we knew it was going to be hard to bat. With guys on the boundary it was hard to keep the runs flowing."
Australia were eventually dismissed for 563 and their chase for quick wickets would have been more successful if Clarke had held a regulation chance at second slip when Virender Sehwag was two. It was the fifth attempt Clarke has missed in the past three games and Australia's reshuffled cordon is having trouble matching the success of its predecessors.
Despite the lapses Clarke said there was no major problem behind the fumbles. "Over the last 20 Tests Australia hasn't dropped too many catches so I don't think you'll see too much change," he said. "We train just as hard as we do when we take all our catches and nothing has changed in our preparation. I apologised to Brett Lee, and I certainly didn't mean to drop it."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo