May 18, 2010

Michael Jeh

Putting team ahead of self

Michael Jeh

When was the last time an out-of-form player said something like "there's no doubt the selectors will need to have a look at my performances"? © Getty Images

In a recent article I made reference to Michael Clarke's commendable dignity in the face of his much-publicised split with his fiancee. His latest comments after Australia's loss in the World Twenty20 final only serve to reinforce my view that as a person and as a character he shows many admirable qualities that befit the status of the highest sporting office in his country.

What's impressive (and clever) about his frank admissions about his own poor Twenty20 form is that he's coming out and saying what almost everyone is thinking - "I certainly know they [my performances] haven't been up to scratch through this whole tournament and probably in Twenty20 cricket in general," Clarke said after the final defeat in Barbados. "I'm sure the selectors will sit down and have a look and if I'm not the right guy for No. 3 and the captaincy then they'll make that decision." By loading his own gun, he not only displays an honesty that is refreshing but he also ensures any criticism that is likely to come his way is bound to be muted. It's very difficult to be crucify an honourable man who offers no excuses or tries to hide behind a smoke screen.

Yes, I am one of those people who think his spot in Australia's Twenty20 side should probably go to another youngster in the domestic ranks. Someone like Adam Voges can also bowl handy left-arm darts, Travis Birt is a powerful hitter, George Bailey is not only a fine hitter but good leadership material too, Lee Carseldine is a classy performer and Callum Ferguson is due back from injury soon. Peter English's mature and sensible piece today is exactly the sort of perspective one needs in the aftermath of disappointment. No need to rush a decision on Clarke's Twenty20 future but equally, it needs to be addressed at some point in the future if the selectors are fair dinkum about selecting the best possible team.

One of Clarke's problems is that because of the scheduling of Australia's domestic Twenty20 tournament, he is unlikely to play in that format and stake his claim or improve his skills. His non-involvement in the IPL is another problem - one less platform to show what he is capable of and one less stage to work on improving certain key aspects of his game. So how he goes about trying to justify his future selection or change his game to a more power-oriented style is a question left unanswered.

The curious thing is that Clarke, in his youth, had the shots to be the perfect Twenty20 batsman. He was renowned for being a flashy stroke-maker. And with today's cricket bats, you don't even need to be a muscle-bound Adonis to clear the boundaries. Players like Gautam Gambhir, Salman Butt, Mahela Jayawardene and Shivnarine Chanderpaul are not big men either. They seem to have the ability to hit boundaries so it's certainly not a physique thing. Not that Clarke is a diminutive chap by any means but he's not quite the build of a Cameron White, Chris Gayle or even an Angelo Matthews. So it's obviously something about his technique that seems to limit his ability to swing freely. He holds the bat much lower down the handle than he seemed to do when he first broke into the international game. And his quick feet almost seem to disadvantage him in the sense that because he gets so close to the ball, he can comfortably chip down to long-on and long-off without having to swing hard to compensate for being further away from the pitch of the ball.

If you watch someone like David Hussey, he almost tries to keep some distance away from the ball to allow his hands longer leverage. The modern sloggers tend to open up their stance and swing through the arc whereas Clarke generally tends to hit more classically down the ground when he's looking to hit a six. His only six of the tournament, against Bangladesh, was a classical little chip over the bowler's head, timed to perfection but not hit with savage intent. That's a lot different from the way a Shane Watson or White or Hussey attempts a six. They try to hit it out of the park, thereby giving themselves more latitude for error. If Clarke gets it slightly wrong, he tends to hole out to the boundary fielder, as he did against Bangladesh when he tried to repeat that very shot against Mohammad Ashraful.

I just think it's a refreshing change to see a captain (or any player for that matter) adopting such a frank attitude to their own form. When was the last time an out-of-form player said something like "there's no doubt the selectors will need to have a look at my performances"? He's almost inviting them to consider dropping him, if his output doesn't benefit the overall team cause. And that's one of the really powerful traditions of Australian cricket teams; they really do believe in the mantra that the team comes first and if that means the captain himself must fall on his sword, Clarke is living proof of that proud, unselfish tradition.

I've seen it happen time and time again in Australian sport where the leader never expects to be judged any differently to his foot soldiers and where unselfishness is a hallmark of the very best of Australian traits. I've done a lot of research into the ANZAC legends and this sort of image keeps cropping up there too, of leaders prepared to make hard calls on themselves and perhaps even making the ultimate sacrifice if it meant victory for the overall cause. I'm not saying it's a uniquely Australian thing - nothing annoys me more than when universal human qualities (or foibles) are referred to as being uniquely Australian (or un-Australian) - but nonetheless, having lived in a few different places around the world, there's a lot to admire about the way Australian leaders leave their ego at the door and devote themselves to their team cause.

Actually, I'm not entirely correct in that assessment. Australian politics is unique in that respect - our fearless leaders in that sphere show no such courage or honesty. Can you ever imagine them saying what Clarke has just said about himself? No, they'd just send a junior Minister out to sell the bad news. "Oi, David Warner or Steve Smith, just pop out and do that press conference today will you? Wish Collingwood all the best and say that I'm busy trying to figure out which players let me down in this tournament. I can't do everything for this team you know!"

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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Posted by Graham Thomas on (June 30, 2010, 0:43 GMT)

M.Clarke is very comfortable with his CA contract . He would know that he is financially guaranteed because CA keep assuring him that he is first pick and then the Team is chosen around him , including Ponting whom is getting his Age Pension via CA at the age of 35 , along with M.Hussey. Michael has no pressure to find , or to improve on that youthful promise he so well showed . Selector's lack that intestinal fortitude to drop him because of their belief that he will come good, he will come good, he will come good . Who will replace him they say ? Where will he go back to to get some run making form , because after all he is only in the side because of the ability he showed with the BAT . Nothing else , not for his bowling , and certainly not for his observance of the Team song!! I would not be troubled if he was stood down . After all it is still only The Poms that tour he this Summer . Well, half the Team are Poms , the rest is made of mixed Nationalities .

Posted by Brian on (June 29, 2010, 11:18 GMT)

The truth hurts, but it is getting clearer that every Twenty20 international Michael Clarke is involved in, he has a stronger case in being omitted from Australia's Twenty20 squad. Differing oppositions may dispute that he needs time to value himself for his spot, but this is unfortunately untrue. Clarke's reason why he is still in the squad is debatable, but most likely - it is his admirable near-perfect captaincy record in the format. His case gets even worse when you notice that his involvement in the Twenty20 arena is constrained by the fact that he hasn't participated in the inaugural IPL, and also that his Test and ODI duties restrict him from taking part in Australia's KFC Big Bash. On the contrary, when Clarke first dazzled and blazed away onto the international scene; he was deemed the perfect batsman to fulfill his Twenty20 position for a long period. Ever since he was dropped when his runs in the Test arena dried up considerably, his confidence in big shots were limited.

Posted by Hammer on (June 3, 2010, 11:17 GMT)

There is nothing wrong with Clarke's form, he just isn't a T20 batsman.

Posted by Patna on (May 27, 2010, 6:56 GMT)

Grate and awesome but winners had have big straight approach.. Thanks Dhapri

Posted by Dean Cashion on (May 25, 2010, 15:19 GMT)

Aside from Clarke fine tuning his captaincy for a future role in the real cricket formats CA/selectors decision to offer him the T20 captaincy was a shocker from the beginning. They know it now but just don't have the balls to admit it or do something about. Clarke's admission post T20 final must of been difficult for the Aus selectors as every man and his dog knows Clarke's T20 batting and even his ODI form has been poor over the past few seasons. Cameron White should of, and should be, the captain for this format and surely one of two of the selectors realize that now, but I don't blame Clarke for not resigning as some as suggested he should do. It's the first time I can recall any Aus Captain being picked ahead of a team, i.e. you pick your team first and then choose a captain from within that team. For gods sake Clarke is our future Aus test captain and a World Class test batsmen and further more with the Ashes series around the corner what the hell were the selectors thinking?

Posted by RP Ravi Prasad on (May 21, 2010, 2:04 GMT)

Quite the contrary on the field and tactically especially in the Finals against England..After successsfully getting Warner run out Clarke tried his best to get both Brad Haddin and David Hussey in the following overs by calling for non-existant single. Sheer panic to say the least.Even in the semi-final against the Pakistanis his leadership was below par. Clarke's leadership is as much at question as his poor batting form .As for IPL he overpriced himself out of contention for the auctions.

Posted by vimal kumar singh on (May 20, 2010, 13:27 GMT)

well i think everyone counting clarke as week link but no one saying this for steven smith he comes as an all rounder but i think in this tournament he just play one inning and just failed to get even single run with the bat he does not have any control in his spin he is going for sixes even from the bowler of other teams as warne suggest him to make his bowling better and batter so i think clarke and steven smith both should come under scanner and should b dropped from the squad and give other new player a chance like blizzard mitchell marsh adam voges daniel christian

Posted by vimal kumar singh on (May 20, 2010, 13:18 GMT)


Posted by Nayanta Pandita on (May 20, 2010, 4:27 GMT)

You've only got to take half a look at Sanath Jayasooriya to appreciate the selflesness of Clarke. Being a Cricket lover ( for get being a Sri Lankan ) it is disgusting to see how Jayasooriya keeps clinging on to the side despite failing miserably time and again. His greed for money and position is killing Sri Lankan cricket and preventing youngsters from entering the team. And he has the odacity to say that the fans want him to pay till 2011 - for what? Surely he's go to be joking. Furthermore under Clarke, it was quite refreshing to see the Aussies paying a less arrogant and more decent game of cricket. They are better behaved under the leadership of Clarke and the team is a much better unit to watch without the cheats and rowdies like Ponting, Symonds, Hayden and McGrath. Hope Clarke gets his technique sorted out and be part of the game for long. Good Luck!

Posted by Naresh on (May 20, 2010, 1:30 GMT)

Shane Watson has no "latitude for error"

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Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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