Australia v Sri Lanka, CB Series, Perth February 11, 2012

Old-school Clarke can be vital in ODIs

Michael Clarke does not hit big sixes, or switch hits, and has a strike-rate well below 100. But in an age of two new balls and lively pitches, his conservative style could be successful in one-day cricket
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Michael Clarke is a bit of an old-world ODI batsman. He doesn't hit the big sixes, he doesn't even think of switch hits, he is not going to score double-centuries, he has converted only six of his 56 scores of 50 or more into centuries; but the beauty of ODI cricket is it has space for him. To be more specific, modern ODI cricket, with new balls at each end, played on bowler-friendly surfaces, has space for him; especially, when he has around him big hitters who can make up for the slow rate in Powerplay or death overs.

The 2000s and Twenty20 nearly took out of the game the middle-order batsman who fought through innings to help his side play out their 50 overs. Such batsmen scored at not more than 70-75 runs per 100 balls, but they controlled the middle part of the innings. They worked the singles and couples, they set the stage for bigger hitters towards the end. When the limits were stretched in the 2000s, though, such batsmen went out of fashion. You either added big hits, or innovation, to your game or dropped out. Mahela Jayawardene, for example, modified his game and became a superb improviser. Younis Khan added the big hits to his manoeuvring of the field. Rahul Dravid went out of the game.

Now, though, a new, exciting legislation has been added to ODI cricket. Each ball gets only 25 overs old in an ODI. It might have an adverse effect on cricket in the subcontinent, reducing the effectiveness of spinners and reverse-swing, but it has made ODI cricket on lively pitches more interesting.

The Perth ODI between Australia and Sri Lanka was an example of that. "Little bit slower than we all expected," Clarke said of the pitch. "Some balls kissed off a lot faster than others. Hard to get your timing, we saw that with both teams." Also the ball kept seaming a touch all through the 99.5 overs, asking questions of batsmen, and the defining innings of the match came at a strike-rate of 64.77, and it included only four boundaries.

Clarke played that innings. He was not fluent. He was not even going to make up for his slow strike-rate in the final overs. He may have to an extent, had he remained till the end, but he would not have converted the strike-rate of 65 into 100, which has nowadays become the accepted norm for ODI batsmen. But Clarke hung in for long enough to get Australia to a total they could fight with.

Clarke also knows that this might not work in more batsmen-friendly conditions. Jonathan Trott in the World Cup is a good example. He played similarly, he was often England's best batsman against spin, but in the absence of big hitters around him, he was criticised for his 75-ball half-centuries. In tough conditions, these innings are inconspicuous but vital, but on flat tracks they become conspicuous.

"When I think of my own performance, I was a bit disappointed with the way I batted," Clarke said. "I felt I could not time the ball. I just tried to hang in there. I have got some really good strikers around me so that might be my role a little bit. If it is difficult to score, I have got to be the one to hang in there a little bit. Just do whatever it takes to help the team. That's what everyone is doing."

Clarke has the temperament and the mindset to do it. He is primarily a Test batsman, and doesn't feel obliged, unlike other limited-over batsmen, to hit out if the runs are not coming at a run a ball. He can be an important batsman in ODIs that feature scores of less than 250. The Adelaide ODI against India might not be a less-than-250 game, and staying inconspicuous - if not noticed for a strike-rate of 125 - in such games is Clarke's big challenge.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mitcher on February 14, 2012, 20:42 GMT

    Some Australian fans would rather the team get bowled out for 160 off 25 overs than have a batsman sum up the conditions, play conservatively and get us to 230-250. OR, they are bitter Clarke is fulfilling his potential and are running out of pathetic reasons to attack him.

  • RandyOZ on February 14, 2012, 16:44 GMT

    I was a Clarke hater but I am warming up to him. I'd still like to see him put in more consistent performances. He often gets out to single digits after triple digit scores

  • bobagorof on February 13, 2012, 1:25 GMT

    And yet in the next match, Clarke scored 38 off 43 including 5 fours, a rate of 88, and bettered 3 of the other top 6 batsmen (and 4 of the top 6 from the other side). Clarke went through a period of slow scoring a few years ago, but he's been back to a strike rate of around 80 for the last 2 years, which is pretty good when coupled with an average of over 55. Maybe his 'slow' scoring is actually just knowing how to play to the conditions? Or perhaps Mr. Mongia only watches cricket on flat tracks?

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on February 12, 2012, 3:59 GMT

    Clarke has it in him to play as per the situation. He indeed is a fine ODI player. Monga, I don't think you got it right this time.

  • popcorn on February 12, 2012, 2:04 GMT

    Mixhael Clarke is the most brilliant batsman in World Cricket today. His batting is attacrive, and adaptable to ALL three formats.Were it not for the unfortunate loss at the T20 World Cup Finals, he may still be playing that format. Credit to him that he has focussed on the traditional way of playing cricket - which this article recognizes, and i hope many more batsman will follow suit. The Bang Bang brand of cricket is an inconsistent lottery. Keep it going,Pup!

  • MuhammadIqbal on February 11, 2012, 18:45 GMT

    Clark and Misbah Ul Haq have same strategy to win the match by using any mean even through slowing the run rate and both are successful now .

  • on February 11, 2012, 17:08 GMT

    clark is so boring....quit playing cricket n start ur career as commentetor...he does not provide any entertainment to fans....

  • Nelly008 on February 11, 2012, 16:59 GMT

    Sri Lanka would ideally need a captain like Clarke , It seems Angelo Mathews is getting there....

  • MENDIS_Forever on February 11, 2012, 14:56 GMT

    Micheal "pup" clarke is a great player.A rare,humble, Aussie captain.I like him very much.All the best pup. -From a Lankan fan.

  • on February 11, 2012, 14:39 GMT

    @whitesXI, Anil_Joshi: Whatever said and done, Mathews's effort wasn't enough. While I agree that Clarke didn't deserve the MoM, Christian was the REAL value cricketer IMHO. He scored 33 on a two-paced pitch, took 2 wickets (and numerous edges ran away for 4 unluckily), took the winning catch under pressure and MOST importantly, he saved so many runs fielding at the boundary! He put in 3 incredible slides at the boundary in the 3 penultimate overs saving EXACTLY 5 runs - the margin of victory. I just can't imagine how Mathews can compare to that overall performance though full credit for his stunning fightback!

  • Mitcher on February 14, 2012, 20:42 GMT

    Some Australian fans would rather the team get bowled out for 160 off 25 overs than have a batsman sum up the conditions, play conservatively and get us to 230-250. OR, they are bitter Clarke is fulfilling his potential and are running out of pathetic reasons to attack him.

  • RandyOZ on February 14, 2012, 16:44 GMT

    I was a Clarke hater but I am warming up to him. I'd still like to see him put in more consistent performances. He often gets out to single digits after triple digit scores

  • bobagorof on February 13, 2012, 1:25 GMT

    And yet in the next match, Clarke scored 38 off 43 including 5 fours, a rate of 88, and bettered 3 of the other top 6 batsmen (and 4 of the top 6 from the other side). Clarke went through a period of slow scoring a few years ago, but he's been back to a strike rate of around 80 for the last 2 years, which is pretty good when coupled with an average of over 55. Maybe his 'slow' scoring is actually just knowing how to play to the conditions? Or perhaps Mr. Mongia only watches cricket on flat tracks?

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on February 12, 2012, 3:59 GMT

    Clarke has it in him to play as per the situation. He indeed is a fine ODI player. Monga, I don't think you got it right this time.

  • popcorn on February 12, 2012, 2:04 GMT

    Mixhael Clarke is the most brilliant batsman in World Cricket today. His batting is attacrive, and adaptable to ALL three formats.Were it not for the unfortunate loss at the T20 World Cup Finals, he may still be playing that format. Credit to him that he has focussed on the traditional way of playing cricket - which this article recognizes, and i hope many more batsman will follow suit. The Bang Bang brand of cricket is an inconsistent lottery. Keep it going,Pup!

  • MuhammadIqbal on February 11, 2012, 18:45 GMT

    Clark and Misbah Ul Haq have same strategy to win the match by using any mean even through slowing the run rate and both are successful now .

  • on February 11, 2012, 17:08 GMT

    clark is so boring....quit playing cricket n start ur career as commentetor...he does not provide any entertainment to fans....

  • Nelly008 on February 11, 2012, 16:59 GMT

    Sri Lanka would ideally need a captain like Clarke , It seems Angelo Mathews is getting there....

  • MENDIS_Forever on February 11, 2012, 14:56 GMT

    Micheal "pup" clarke is a great player.A rare,humble, Aussie captain.I like him very much.All the best pup. -From a Lankan fan.

  • on February 11, 2012, 14:39 GMT

    @whitesXI, Anil_Joshi: Whatever said and done, Mathews's effort wasn't enough. While I agree that Clarke didn't deserve the MoM, Christian was the REAL value cricketer IMHO. He scored 33 on a two-paced pitch, took 2 wickets (and numerous edges ran away for 4 unluckily), took the winning catch under pressure and MOST importantly, he saved so many runs fielding at the boundary! He put in 3 incredible slides at the boundary in the 3 penultimate overs saving EXACTLY 5 runs - the margin of victory. I just can't imagine how Mathews can compare to that overall performance though full credit for his stunning fightback!

  • playitstraight on February 11, 2012, 14:24 GMT

    Michael Clarke is an impressive batsman, and a more impressive captain. Ususally, when a player is handed the captaincy, they tend to perform less because of the pressure of captaincy role. But, I have noticed that people like Kumar Sangakkara, AB DeVilliers, and Michael Clarke have performed tremendously well AFTER they got the captaincy. It goes on to show how the player takes his game when given the captaincy role and how he leads the side. It is alright if you take a lot of balls to make a half-century or century, as long as you win the match for your team. That is what Clarke did yesterday. Angelo Matthews, on the other hand, scored briskly as he knew he had to in order to win the match, and he almost did it. Unfortunately, he ran out of partners and all the pressure was put on him. Michael Clarke, Angelo Matthews, and Rohit Sharma are players to watch out for this series.

  • spongebat_squarestumps on February 11, 2012, 12:49 GMT

    Clarke got MotM because of the importance of the innings he DID play. That's the point of this article. Had he headlessly swung his bat to be dismissed like Warner & Christian did for example, and got out for say a duck, Australia would most certainly have certainly lost the match. The point is horses for courses - Clarke came off two HUGE scores only a few weeks ago, so he is in form and can bat well when conditions suit him. Sidarth's point is that Clarke knows only one gear- Pup gear (which was perfect if a little surprising for what should be a fast and bouncy WACA picth) but that inflexibility won't be enough to win matches (and get MotM) on flatter tracks where he will need to show that he can step it up several gears. Batsmen like Viv Richards could tune their batting and hit as consitions (and the game) suited; Clarke will never be a Viv Richards. Nor does he want to be. Nor should we expect him.

  • VivGilchrist on February 11, 2012, 12:36 GMT

    All I ask I that Clarke never bats during a power play. ......is the writer of this article telling us that this millionaire international cricketer does not have the ability to hit over the infield when the field is up?

  • on February 11, 2012, 12:34 GMT

    Indians still to adapt 25 over rule. Seem to go for big ones too early.

  • ajayrcs on February 11, 2012, 12:03 GMT

    Anil_Joshi Clarke score 57 at 88 ball led to win the match whereas Mathews 64 of 76 was for a loosing cause. and you are saying playier of the match which means a player because of whom team went over the win line.

  • on February 11, 2012, 11:39 GMT

    nice article......appreciable on par of clarke________

  • whitesXI on February 11, 2012, 11:28 GMT

    Disgusted with Clarke getting the man of the match. At no point in Clarkes innings did he take charge and become the dominant batsmen in any partnership, forcing the junior members of the squad to hit out to keep the run rate up. Poor leadership from a captain and senior batsmen. Angelo Mathews should have had man of the match, but it seems the losing teams players are never in contention for it

  • on February 11, 2012, 11:22 GMT

    he is a good player , good captain, he deserved that player of the match, its better to play for a long time and score some extra runs in a kinda average strike rate rather than loosing the wicket in search of big hits, which is not in the favour of the team, David warner is overrated...........whats the use of those player who scores big runs rarely and most of the time lose their wicket in a quick fashion. .... !

  • pradave17 on February 11, 2012, 11:14 GMT

    Clarke is still playing for the team. not for his individual career. thats why he has and should have a space in his team

  • Barnesy4444 on February 11, 2012, 11:13 GMT

    I never could understand why Clarke didn't open in ODI. He could play a Mark Waugh type of role making centuries off 120-125 balls. He does look conspicuous scoring at that rate nearing the end of the innings.

  • chad_reid on February 11, 2012, 11:07 GMT

    i was watching the game v sl clarke played great shots that went to the fielder or was well fielded even the shot he got out to was straight at the fielder a meter the other side it was 4 he could have had a strike rate in the 90s but sl had good fielding positions against him or they fielded well but the main point of the match is they still lost the match even with clarkes low strike rate and some brilliant fielding by Christian who saved alot of runs but clarkes captaincy is the what i like the most he knows what his doing and attacks since his been in charge aus haven't lost a series that is something after what we saw happened to ponting after the legends retired only mistake he made was give starc the final over should have been McKay with his hilarious slower bowls that mathews kept on missing again n again

  • on February 11, 2012, 10:35 GMT

    A strike rate of just 2 short of 80 in ODIs and in dont know why would some one criticize him and classify him an old fashioned ODI batsman? The reason is too much of T20 cricket has added a bad taste to all other forms of cricket. Not to speak of ODIs even in test matches the fans expect batsmen to hit sixes and fours which is really bad for real quality cricket. What if you can't hit big sixes? if you are a middle order batsman and you can score at a strike rate of around 80 in ODIs even will this help your team a great deal in reaching a total of 275 which is a very good total to defend in my opinion and i have been a big cricket critique for so many years don't forget.

  • waqar.cz on February 11, 2012, 10:29 GMT

    he's caption like Misbah!

  • Anil_Joshi on February 11, 2012, 9:53 GMT

    Why The Clarke was Player of the match ? Why was not Angelo Mathews ?

    Clarke score 57 at 88 balls Mathews score 64 at 76 balls and 2 of 37 in 9 overs.

  • on February 11, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    Clarke just doesnt want to risk his wicket thru playing big shots, everyone else is willing to play the big shots for the good of the team. Clarkes still got a good record and he is needed in the odi's but he should be playing a few more shots and upping his strike rate nearer to 85-90 rather then 70-80, aussies dont want clarke batting in last 10 overs because he wont take full advantage of it

  • on February 11, 2012, 9:33 GMT

    He is an overrated odi player.

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  • on February 11, 2012, 9:33 GMT

    He is an overrated odi player.

  • on February 11, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    Clarke just doesnt want to risk his wicket thru playing big shots, everyone else is willing to play the big shots for the good of the team. Clarkes still got a good record and he is needed in the odi's but he should be playing a few more shots and upping his strike rate nearer to 85-90 rather then 70-80, aussies dont want clarke batting in last 10 overs because he wont take full advantage of it

  • Anil_Joshi on February 11, 2012, 9:53 GMT

    Why The Clarke was Player of the match ? Why was not Angelo Mathews ?

    Clarke score 57 at 88 balls Mathews score 64 at 76 balls and 2 of 37 in 9 overs.

  • waqar.cz on February 11, 2012, 10:29 GMT

    he's caption like Misbah!

  • on February 11, 2012, 10:35 GMT

    A strike rate of just 2 short of 80 in ODIs and in dont know why would some one criticize him and classify him an old fashioned ODI batsman? The reason is too much of T20 cricket has added a bad taste to all other forms of cricket. Not to speak of ODIs even in test matches the fans expect batsmen to hit sixes and fours which is really bad for real quality cricket. What if you can't hit big sixes? if you are a middle order batsman and you can score at a strike rate of around 80 in ODIs even will this help your team a great deal in reaching a total of 275 which is a very good total to defend in my opinion and i have been a big cricket critique for so many years don't forget.

  • chad_reid on February 11, 2012, 11:07 GMT

    i was watching the game v sl clarke played great shots that went to the fielder or was well fielded even the shot he got out to was straight at the fielder a meter the other side it was 4 he could have had a strike rate in the 90s but sl had good fielding positions against him or they fielded well but the main point of the match is they still lost the match even with clarkes low strike rate and some brilliant fielding by Christian who saved alot of runs but clarkes captaincy is the what i like the most he knows what his doing and attacks since his been in charge aus haven't lost a series that is something after what we saw happened to ponting after the legends retired only mistake he made was give starc the final over should have been McKay with his hilarious slower bowls that mathews kept on missing again n again

  • Barnesy4444 on February 11, 2012, 11:13 GMT

    I never could understand why Clarke didn't open in ODI. He could play a Mark Waugh type of role making centuries off 120-125 balls. He does look conspicuous scoring at that rate nearing the end of the innings.

  • pradave17 on February 11, 2012, 11:14 GMT

    Clarke is still playing for the team. not for his individual career. thats why he has and should have a space in his team

  • on February 11, 2012, 11:22 GMT

    he is a good player , good captain, he deserved that player of the match, its better to play for a long time and score some extra runs in a kinda average strike rate rather than loosing the wicket in search of big hits, which is not in the favour of the team, David warner is overrated...........whats the use of those player who scores big runs rarely and most of the time lose their wicket in a quick fashion. .... !

  • whitesXI on February 11, 2012, 11:28 GMT

    Disgusted with Clarke getting the man of the match. At no point in Clarkes innings did he take charge and become the dominant batsmen in any partnership, forcing the junior members of the squad to hit out to keep the run rate up. Poor leadership from a captain and senior batsmen. Angelo Mathews should have had man of the match, but it seems the losing teams players are never in contention for it