July 2, 2010

Michael Clarke's go-slow approach to ODIs

As a Test batsman, Michael Clarke's career has been going from strength to strength, but in the limited-overs versions he has been strangely subdued
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Michael Clarke's unbeaten 99 in the fourth ODI against England showed he can still pack a punch as an ODI batsman, but over the two-and-a-half years before that, his stats in this format went down significantly. This week's column looks at this slump, with all stats updated till the third ODI between England and Australia on June 27.

Michael Clarke's career as a Test batsman has been going from strength to strength, but in the limited-overs versions the going has been much rougher. His problems in Twenty20 have been well documented - it's something he has admitted himself - but even in the 50-over game his rate has considerably slackened recently compared to his early years.

It's not as if the top-quality one-day innings have dried up completely: in the first match of the ongoing five-ODI series against England, Clarke made a fine unbeaten 87 in the first match at the Rose Bowl. Against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi last year, he cracked an unbeaten 100 off 122 as Australia easily chased down 198. However, in between there have been several iffy knocks, in which Clarke has spent a substantial amount of time at the crease without ever looking like he could dominate the attack. For example, in the third ODI of the Abu Dhabi series, Clarke came in at 93 for 2 after 18 overs, after the openers had given Australia an excellent start, putting together 75 in less than 14 overs, but by the time he became the fifth victim, after scoring a boundary-less 33 from 54 balls, Australia had only progressed to 169 in the 39th.

It wasn't all Clarke's fault, of course, but over the last two-and-a-half years he seems to have been increasingly playing within himself. In his first four years and more, he was a far more free-flowing batsman, willing to take chances, willing to go down the track and attack spinners, and willing to look for boundaries. In his first 119 matches he averaged almost 45, but more importantly, he scored at a strike rate of 83 runs per 100 balls; since November 2007, the average has diminished and so has the strike rate, which has reduced substantially to 68.47. His balls-per-boundary stat gives an indication of how his batting has changed - from a four every 14 balls, he now hits a four every 20 balls, while he has almost completely eschewed the six.

Michael Clarke's ODI career
Period Matches Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s 4s/ 6s Balls per 4/ 6
Till Oct 31, 2007 119 3551 44.94 83.04 3/ 26 312/ 26 14/ 164
From Nov 1, 2007 58 1859 37.93 68.47 1/ 15 137/ 3 20/ 905
Career 177 5410 42.26 77.62 4/ 41 449/ 29 16/ 241

Here's further proof of how Clarke's batting has changed over the years: in the first five years of his ODI career, nearly 40% of his runs came in fours and sixes; in the last two-and-a-half years, that percentage is about 30, while the dot-ball percentage has increased marginally too. The combination of the two has resulted in the reduced strike rate.

How Clarke has scored his ODI runs
Period Runs Balls Dot ball % Boundary %
Before Nov 2007 3551 4276 50.35 39.77
Since Nov 2007 1859 2715 54.81 30.45

Clarke has always been an excellent player of spin, but recently his confidence in scoring quickly against pace seems to have dwindled. His strike rate against the fast bowlers has reduced by almost 20 runs per 100 balls, which has been the main reason for the overall reduction in his strike rate. Against spin the drop has been a lot less significant.

Clarke against pace and spin in ODIs
Period Pace - average Strike rate Spin - average Strike rate
Before Nov 2007 43.05 86.33 66.31 77.33
Since Nov 2007 38.13 67.58 39.82 70.08

The No. 4 batsman plays a vital role in shaping the tempo of the team's innings, and it's in this aspect that Clarke has perhaps let Australia down. Unquestionably, sometimes the situation has warranted a go-slow approach: for example, in the third match of the Abu Dhabi series mentioned earlier, he only scored 66 off 93 balls, but it helped Australia to 198, which turned out to be a defendable score in slow conditions. However, there have been other instances when his sedate approach hasn't suited the cause of the team. Comparing him with other No. 4 batsmen, it emerges that Clarke's strike rate is the third-lowest, but the two who are slower than him are both from minnow teams. Extending the list to all batsmen who've scored 1000 ODI runs during these two-and-a-half years, Clarke still finds his place among the slowest, with only Raqibul Hasan scoring at a lower rate.

Lowest strike rates for No. 4 batsmen since Nov 2007
Batsman Innings Runs Average Srike rate 100s/ 50s
Tatenda Taibu 23 516 24.57 63.94 0/ 3
Raqibul Hasan 27 781 33.95 65.57 0/ 5
Michael Clarke 44 1463 40.63 67.95 1/ 11
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 26 963 56.64 72.89 2/ 5
Mohammad Ashraful 22 578 28.90 74.19 0/ 4
Mahela Jayawardene 35 969 32.30 75.52 0/ 9

Among all Australian No. 4 batsmen in ODIs since 2000, Clarke's current avatar is at the bottom of the list in terms of strike rate, marginally below Michael Bevan. Clarke's previous version, though, is among the best: before November 2007, he scored at almost 83 runs per 100 balls, which is very near Michael Hussey's rate of 87.28, the best by an Australian No. 4. During that period he averaged more than 50 as well, which made him arguably one of the best ODI batsmen around. The same can hardly be said of him now.

Australian No. 4s in ODIs since 2000 (Qual: 500 runs)
Batsman Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Michael Hussey 15 666 51.23 87.28 1/ 6
Andrew Symonds 17 503 35.92 85.54 0/ 3
Clarke (before Nov 2007) 26 1111 50.50 82.91 1/ 10
Damien Martyn 97 3077 42.15 74.64 3/ 24
Michael Bevan 38 1542 53.17 69.52 2/ 11
Clarke (since Nov 2007) 44 1463 40.63 67.95 1/ 11

Compared with all his batting mates, Clarke is easily the slowest in the last two-and-a-half years. Eleven Australian batsmen have scored more than 500 runs since November 2007, and Clarke's strike rate of 68.47 is the slowest. On the other hand, seven batsmen have a scoring rate of more than 80, while Cameron White misses the mark by a whisker.

Overall, though, Australia's scoring during the last two-and-a-half years hasn't dropped much compared to the four years before that, which means the rest of the batting line-up has largely compensated for Clarke's slower scoring rate. All of them would be hoping, though, that Clarke returns to his earlier avatar and they won't have to compensate for much longer.

Australia in ODIs during Michael Clarke's time
Period Matches Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s 4s/ 6s
Jan 19, 2003 to 31 Oct, 2007 147 38.83 84.94 42/ 204 3133/ 493
From Nov 1, 2007 79 33.52 81.84 19/ 115 1540/ 222

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • PJMueller on July 5, 2010, 22:52 GMT

    The bottom line is, the guy is not cut out for responsibility. Once again today against Pakistan, no rush, went along at less that a run a ball till he got out, middle order under immediate pressure once again. Just absolute rubbish, the sooner he is replaced as captain the better.

  • Winsome on July 5, 2010, 9:50 GMT

    But MacAttack, he doesn't accelerate. That is what this article is telling us and anyone who watches him, knows this. We have just had two examples of it in this series.

    I agree, it is his technique as much as his mentality. He plays risk-free cricket as his average is what he has going for him and what will keep him in the team. It will get worse once he is captain. As captain, his strike rate is 63.

    Really.

  • Cmac389 on July 4, 2010, 6:04 GMT

    Michael Clarke only starts off slow with singles and nudges to get in and then build an innings to accelerate at the end. If they lose that middle order stabilizer, Australia often collapses. You often see him get angry when he doesn't capitalize on a good start and cannot find the boundary for his team.

  • dr.jha on July 3, 2010, 20:45 GMT

    hmmm... great compilation.. but stats have to be analysed in context ... he may have slowed down a little... but he is a great asset to any team... i guess we are just making him look bad... he can get into any team's playing eleven right now...am not a big fan of him personally but he has that grace when he bats.. that special ability .. the one that mark waugh had.. thats wat is special about cricket .. individuality makes it a wonderful team sport :) nice job rajesh... but really .. he is a very fine player... let him be...

  • westbars_spireite on July 3, 2010, 19:19 GMT

    As long as he's contributing I don't think the Aussie selectors will give this a second thought.

  • PJMueller on July 3, 2010, 19:00 GMT

    Pat_Muld - yes I did. Look how far back you have to go to find a time when Clarke stepped up. Look how many games he has, since then, not stepped up when Australia desperately needed him to. He has failed more often in terms of responsibility and team necessity than any Australian player I can think of in recent history.

  • Pat_Muld on July 3, 2010, 15:28 GMT

    Pj Mueller - did you happen to see any of the ashes series last year. Clarke was the rock of that batting line-up which at times was found out by a decent English attack. Am I the only one who thinks Clarke is being bashed over strike-rate alone. I'm sure he'd like to be scoring freely, but he is a class player and will no doubt be out to prove it!

  • BillyCC on July 2, 2010, 23:49 GMT

    Quite funny, David Boon, and an interesting assessment. If you are suggesting that Michael Clarke is a selfish cricketer and bats slowly because of this, then it's also time to realise that batting in cricket can be an individual pursuit, especially when the batsman is in danger of being dropped. Clarke has only recently felt safe in the side, given that he was dropped for a lengthy period three years ago. So we can forgive him for being a little selfish. Personally, I think his strike rate is a function of his technique rather than his emotions.

  • David_Boon on July 2, 2010, 22:23 GMT

    Question: How many runs has Micheal Clarke scored for Australia?

    Answer: None, he scored them all for Micheal Clarke.

  • PJMueller on July 2, 2010, 18:24 GMT

    Michael Clarke is without question one of the main reasons for Australia's decline. I have watched closely for some time and when the team needs him ne never ever steps up - yet when there is no responsibility he will pull out a blinder. The trouble is, he is not a matchwinner first of all and he is too irresponsible for the position he has been delegated secondly. He singlehandedly lost the T20's for Australia and has so, so often not stepped up in Tests and ODI's when Australia needed him. Soon as the pressure is off, the runs flow. Its uncanny - watch and see how he plays when he is really needed the most.

  • PJMueller on July 5, 2010, 22:52 GMT

    The bottom line is, the guy is not cut out for responsibility. Once again today against Pakistan, no rush, went along at less that a run a ball till he got out, middle order under immediate pressure once again. Just absolute rubbish, the sooner he is replaced as captain the better.

  • Winsome on July 5, 2010, 9:50 GMT

    But MacAttack, he doesn't accelerate. That is what this article is telling us and anyone who watches him, knows this. We have just had two examples of it in this series.

    I agree, it is his technique as much as his mentality. He plays risk-free cricket as his average is what he has going for him and what will keep him in the team. It will get worse once he is captain. As captain, his strike rate is 63.

    Really.

  • Cmac389 on July 4, 2010, 6:04 GMT

    Michael Clarke only starts off slow with singles and nudges to get in and then build an innings to accelerate at the end. If they lose that middle order stabilizer, Australia often collapses. You often see him get angry when he doesn't capitalize on a good start and cannot find the boundary for his team.

  • dr.jha on July 3, 2010, 20:45 GMT

    hmmm... great compilation.. but stats have to be analysed in context ... he may have slowed down a little... but he is a great asset to any team... i guess we are just making him look bad... he can get into any team's playing eleven right now...am not a big fan of him personally but he has that grace when he bats.. that special ability .. the one that mark waugh had.. thats wat is special about cricket .. individuality makes it a wonderful team sport :) nice job rajesh... but really .. he is a very fine player... let him be...

  • westbars_spireite on July 3, 2010, 19:19 GMT

    As long as he's contributing I don't think the Aussie selectors will give this a second thought.

  • PJMueller on July 3, 2010, 19:00 GMT

    Pat_Muld - yes I did. Look how far back you have to go to find a time when Clarke stepped up. Look how many games he has, since then, not stepped up when Australia desperately needed him to. He has failed more often in terms of responsibility and team necessity than any Australian player I can think of in recent history.

  • Pat_Muld on July 3, 2010, 15:28 GMT

    Pj Mueller - did you happen to see any of the ashes series last year. Clarke was the rock of that batting line-up which at times was found out by a decent English attack. Am I the only one who thinks Clarke is being bashed over strike-rate alone. I'm sure he'd like to be scoring freely, but he is a class player and will no doubt be out to prove it!

  • BillyCC on July 2, 2010, 23:49 GMT

    Quite funny, David Boon, and an interesting assessment. If you are suggesting that Michael Clarke is a selfish cricketer and bats slowly because of this, then it's also time to realise that batting in cricket can be an individual pursuit, especially when the batsman is in danger of being dropped. Clarke has only recently felt safe in the side, given that he was dropped for a lengthy period three years ago. So we can forgive him for being a little selfish. Personally, I think his strike rate is a function of his technique rather than his emotions.

  • David_Boon on July 2, 2010, 22:23 GMT

    Question: How many runs has Micheal Clarke scored for Australia?

    Answer: None, he scored them all for Micheal Clarke.

  • PJMueller on July 2, 2010, 18:24 GMT

    Michael Clarke is without question one of the main reasons for Australia's decline. I have watched closely for some time and when the team needs him ne never ever steps up - yet when there is no responsibility he will pull out a blinder. The trouble is, he is not a matchwinner first of all and he is too irresponsible for the position he has been delegated secondly. He singlehandedly lost the T20's for Australia and has so, so often not stepped up in Tests and ODI's when Australia needed him. Soon as the pressure is off, the runs flow. Its uncanny - watch and see how he plays when he is really needed the most.

  • Winsome on July 2, 2010, 17:12 GMT

    Kieran, criticism of his strike rate stems from the fact that it's 68 for nearly 3 years now. It's got nothing to do with 20/20 cricket. 68/69 is pants.

    We have watching him preserve his wicket and fail to hit boundaries in the two games that he has batted through to the final overs in this series. Looks strange when he is supposedly one of our best batsmen.

    This article is just stating what most Aus fans know. He's slow as a wet week and appears to be turning into the most boring one day batsman in cricket.

  • manasvi_lingam on July 2, 2010, 16:26 GMT

    Clarke has been playing the kind of role that Rahul Dravid did during his peak ODi years from 2002 onwards until around 2006. He is the anchor around whom the strokeplayers and the sloggers play. Let him be! It is constructive to look at another batsman who has slowed down considerably but in the process reinvented his role: M.S.Dhoni

  • on July 2, 2010, 14:16 GMT

    I dont understand the criticism of Clarke, hes been the top performer with the bat during the series in terms of big scores 87,99 they've been good well constructed innings of class. he reminds me of border these days hell fight to the very end, i have a suspicion that the criticism of his okaie strike rate stems from the constant T20 cricket that we are forced to watch so we get used to people hitting at 130 but if u rewind back to 07 his performance would have been praised. dont be so hard on the guy hes doing a job and has the stats to prove it

  • Damus on July 2, 2010, 12:04 GMT

    Clarke has been given a specific role in ODIs by the Australian team and management: to bat through to 42-45 overs if Ponting gets out early. Naturally he takes fewer risks when this happens. Ponting's reducing effectiveness is the cause of this lower strike rate, and the replacement of Symonds with the more cumbersome Cameron White is what highlights it.

    Great player doing a great job for his side.

  • Asif_Iqbal on July 2, 2010, 10:41 GMT

    Hmmmmmmmmm greate comparison

  • katandthat3 on July 2, 2010, 9:38 GMT

    I'm a big fan of Clarkey in tests (automatic selection) but struggle to watch him in ODI's and particularly in T20. CA have backed themselves into a corner by declaring him the heir apparent to all forms when really he should just make and be eventual captain of the Test side. Is he the best the top 6 bats in ODI or T20? - no. Cameron White is the ideal No.4 and Hussey No 5. Callum Ferguson when he returns will slot nicely into No.6. See if it happens.....

  • natmastak_so-called on July 2, 2010, 9:20 GMT

    clarke is okay in tests ,but in limited overs formats he is a strict no no NOWADAYS.it is also interesting to note,downfall of punter and downfall of clarke are coinsiding,increasing aussie's worries from last two and half years.although in last odi they tried to make up for that ,to some extent.

  • AsifRathod on July 2, 2010, 9:19 GMT

    M. Clarke is one of the finest batsman of last decade. Statistics shows his form has declined, it happens in career of every cricketer. He can easily play role like, J.Kallis in batting department and anchor innings in middle half of an innings. His Avg. is very good. Strike rate doesn't show greatness of the player. R. Dravid is one prime example, he was one of the best ODI batsman in last 4-5 yrs of his career but before that peoples condemn him for his lower strike rates. In Clarke's case it's the reverse case.

  • Something_Witty on July 2, 2010, 8:11 GMT

    Is Chris Tavare dead? Because Michael Clarke seems to be channeling his spirit. It's quite bemusing really.

  • on July 2, 2010, 7:50 GMT

    he is not so great in one dayers . Aussies shout still keep him though he is not so good(strike rate) but has some experience which Australia desperately need right now. after most of their senior players retiring australia have not been at their best. clarke is not a great captain and a player a t20's and Australia should change their captain in t20's to cameroen white.he is got experience of captaincy in australia domestic cricket also(captain of victoria bushrangers).

  • bowzer on July 2, 2010, 7:27 GMT

    Clarke somehow needs to go back into the nets and practice the basics. His lack of boundaries, is what gets me. Lately when he comes in, I know the boundaries will dry up. This puts more pressure on the other batsmen. So he made 87 n.o. in the first one day match but there were about 5-6 overs ther where he did not hit a boundary. Even if he got one or two it would have changed the match.

  • Sekhar_S on July 2, 2010, 7:24 GMT

    Agree with @BillyCC.The T20I with India at MCG in 2008 comes to mind.The target was a meagre 77 and Clarke,captaining the side,opened the innings with Gilchrist.All those who were accusing Dhoni of slowing down in the last 3 years (since he became captain) must read this article.

  • chandau on July 2, 2010, 6:44 GMT

    The change in batting style may be due to pup becoming more or less PAPA, with the talk of removing Punter from captaincy after the Ashes woes. The problem for Aus is there is no other spot to play MC. With TP and SW - 2 allrounders opening they have a super chance to play extra batter. To change this would mean under-utilizing their abilities to hammer the ball, which MC has not shown much. To make him bat lower means again the end of innings fireworks dont come as MC is not a big basher. If not for untimely demise of ROY, MC would be fighting for a place in this lineup. Add to that he no longer bowls puts him in bad shape BUT he is the heir apparent so he must play!!! Unless Aus can find another captain for ODI and T20 (remember he failed in T20 also!) He is the weak link that holds up another guy coming into the team. Paine/Haddin, Watson, Ponting, Hussy, White, ROY (yes bring him back for WC), Hopes, Jhonson, Smith, Tait, Douggie. Now that's a real team :) cheers from Sri Lanka

  • on July 2, 2010, 6:35 GMT

    Clarke is great....he deserves 2 lead Australia..

  • Najam007 on July 2, 2010, 5:49 GMT

    You have mentioned Clarke's career Strike rate in the 1st table as 42.26, which is incorrect (it is his average). His career strike rate should be in between 83.04 and 68.47.

  • on July 2, 2010, 5:40 GMT

    Strike rate of 42.26?

  • rajeshvembu on July 2, 2010, 5:22 GMT

    I think there's a typo in Clarke's career strike rate in Table 1. Statsguru says its 77.62 !!!

  • on July 2, 2010, 5:16 GMT

    Clarke's career ODI strike rate is incorrect in the first table (copy of his average)

  • on July 2, 2010, 4:49 GMT

    Period Matches Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s 4s/ 6s Balls per 4/ 6 Career 177 5410 42.26 42.26 4/ 41 449/ 29 16/ 241

    STrike rate is 42.26??? ts 77.62 pppl

    Mistakee

  • BillyCC on July 2, 2010, 4:11 GMT

    This has been something I have noticed for a while now. The ideal situation for Clarke is to come in when Australia are chasing a low to moderate total. In this case, he is a good person to guide the innings. The worst situation for him to come in is when he has to dominate the bowling early on, score quickly and hit boundaries. So Clarke is not very good at building big totals batting first unless he doesn't get out and becomes the platform. He is also not very good at chasing big totals having lost early wickets. The T20 game is not suited to his approach. Kallis is a batsmen of a similar mould who has struggled throughout much of his career winning games when behind the eight ball. However, this has been an improvement of his in the recent past.

  • DieselsDonz on July 2, 2010, 3:40 GMT

    I have been saying this for the last 2 years. You could almost extend the stats back to when Clarke got his spot back in the 2006/07 Ashes series. It seems that in tightening his game, he seems to have lost his ability to improvise and find alternative scoring zones. In particular, that stat about only THREE 6's in his last 3 years is damning, I doubt there would be another regular ODI batsman who has a record worse than that

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  • DieselsDonz on July 2, 2010, 3:40 GMT

    I have been saying this for the last 2 years. You could almost extend the stats back to when Clarke got his spot back in the 2006/07 Ashes series. It seems that in tightening his game, he seems to have lost his ability to improvise and find alternative scoring zones. In particular, that stat about only THREE 6's in his last 3 years is damning, I doubt there would be another regular ODI batsman who has a record worse than that

  • BillyCC on July 2, 2010, 4:11 GMT

    This has been something I have noticed for a while now. The ideal situation for Clarke is to come in when Australia are chasing a low to moderate total. In this case, he is a good person to guide the innings. The worst situation for him to come in is when he has to dominate the bowling early on, score quickly and hit boundaries. So Clarke is not very good at building big totals batting first unless he doesn't get out and becomes the platform. He is also not very good at chasing big totals having lost early wickets. The T20 game is not suited to his approach. Kallis is a batsmen of a similar mould who has struggled throughout much of his career winning games when behind the eight ball. However, this has been an improvement of his in the recent past.

  • on July 2, 2010, 4:49 GMT

    Period Matches Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s 4s/ 6s Balls per 4/ 6 Career 177 5410 42.26 42.26 4/ 41 449/ 29 16/ 241

    STrike rate is 42.26??? ts 77.62 pppl

    Mistakee

  • on July 2, 2010, 5:16 GMT

    Clarke's career ODI strike rate is incorrect in the first table (copy of his average)

  • rajeshvembu on July 2, 2010, 5:22 GMT

    I think there's a typo in Clarke's career strike rate in Table 1. Statsguru says its 77.62 !!!

  • on July 2, 2010, 5:40 GMT

    Strike rate of 42.26?

  • Najam007 on July 2, 2010, 5:49 GMT

    You have mentioned Clarke's career Strike rate in the 1st table as 42.26, which is incorrect (it is his average). His career strike rate should be in between 83.04 and 68.47.

  • on July 2, 2010, 6:35 GMT

    Clarke is great....he deserves 2 lead Australia..

  • chandau on July 2, 2010, 6:44 GMT

    The change in batting style may be due to pup becoming more or less PAPA, with the talk of removing Punter from captaincy after the Ashes woes. The problem for Aus is there is no other spot to play MC. With TP and SW - 2 allrounders opening they have a super chance to play extra batter. To change this would mean under-utilizing their abilities to hammer the ball, which MC has not shown much. To make him bat lower means again the end of innings fireworks dont come as MC is not a big basher. If not for untimely demise of ROY, MC would be fighting for a place in this lineup. Add to that he no longer bowls puts him in bad shape BUT he is the heir apparent so he must play!!! Unless Aus can find another captain for ODI and T20 (remember he failed in T20 also!) He is the weak link that holds up another guy coming into the team. Paine/Haddin, Watson, Ponting, Hussy, White, ROY (yes bring him back for WC), Hopes, Jhonson, Smith, Tait, Douggie. Now that's a real team :) cheers from Sri Lanka

  • Sekhar_S on July 2, 2010, 7:24 GMT

    Agree with @BillyCC.The T20I with India at MCG in 2008 comes to mind.The target was a meagre 77 and Clarke,captaining the side,opened the innings with Gilchrist.All those who were accusing Dhoni of slowing down in the last 3 years (since he became captain) must read this article.