January 30, 2011

The misery that is Michael Clarke

Clarke needs a long innings in the first-class format but captaincy worries and the World Cup prevent him from concentrating on his batting

Michael Clarke is mired in the worst kind of slump a batsman can experience. His problems are not just mental, he also has to deal with a technical flaw.

In most instances coming to terms with a slump for an international batsman involves purely reaching the realisation (after weeks of tinkering with footwork, your grip, and wondering if your eyes are failing) that what you really need to do is focus on the ball leaving the bowler's hand. Nothing else. It's as simple as that.

Most struggling batsmen think that's what they're doing, but in reality they're watching an area around the bowler's hand. This problem can be triggered by any number of things, ranging from lack of confidence to personal issues, but there's one common denominator: the runs just don't flow.

In Clarke's case his over-eagerness to stamp his authority at the crease has him committing too early on the front foot. This in turn leads to technical issues. Even in defence he plants his front foot and then sends the bat on a reconnaissance mission: Off you go, willow, and see what you can find out there.

There's nothing in his current play to suggest a stay at the crease will be either long or fruitful, but that could change with one long innings. Ideally a stint in the Sheffield Shield competition would do wonders for his batting.

However, this isn't an option, as there's no Sheffield Shield cricket being played. At the moment it's all Twenty20, and while attack is often the best way for a strokeplayer to exit a slump, it would be senseless asking Clarke to play in the Big Bash for New South Wales. What he needs is to play a long innings, perhaps one full of strokes, but definitely one resulting in a substantial score. A big score calms the nerves, rallies the confidence and erases all the rubbish that clogs the mind like a Mumbai traffic jam.

Therein lies the dilemma for the selectors. They can't demote Clarke to help him sort out his problems, while replacing him with a batsman who is only scoring quickfire twenties and thirties in Twenty20 cricket is risky.

There's also another reason why it's difficult to drop Clarke. He's doing a good job as captain. Not that Australia should ever choose a captain and then the other 10 players, but Clarke's leadership is contributing to the team's winning record. However, if they start losing regularly then the pressure on Clarke will rise quicker than a Harrier Jump Jet.

Clarke's situation is not unlike that of former Australian captain Mark Taylor in 1996-97. Taylor endured a famously prolonged slump that resulted in calls for his axing, but despite his personal turmoil he led the team with great authority. At the time, former Australian batsman and noted wit Doug Walters was asked on radio for his assessment of Taylor's problems. He produced this wonderful piece of twisted logic: "He's batting too long."

When asked to explain his theory, Walters replied: "Think back to when Greg Chappell had his slump. He made a lot of ducks, so no one knew if he was out of form. But Taylor keeps making 17, 9, 15, 13," continued Walters. "Everyone can see he's out of form. He's batting too long."

Chappell's slump in 1981-82 also attracted a lot of controversial comment, with one wag at the MCG holding up a sign saying: "If Greg Chappell could bat he'd be a great allrounder."

Even in defence Clarke plants his front foot and then sends the bat on a reconnaissance mission: Off you go, willow and see what you can find out there

However, there are crucial differences between Taylor and Chappell's slumps compared with Clarke's current misery. Whereas Clarke has now gone 19 innings without a Test century, Chappell only had a span of 10 knocks separating two three-figure scores.

Taylor's century drought in Tests was a debilitating 24 innings but he was at least exceeding 50 regularly in ODI matches. And importantly, both Taylor and Chappell had the opportunity to play some first-class tour matches that eventually led them to resolving their crises of confidence.

In Clarke's case he's lumbered with the added pressure of the upcoming World Cup as he searches for an exit from his personal fog. In addition, he's one of Australia's crucial batsmen on the subcontinent as, in form, he has the ability to dictate terms to good spinners.

Somehow Clarke has to find a way to clear his mind and sort out his technique in order to post a big score. If he's successful he can look forward to the World Cup with confidence and anticipate his elevation to the captaincy without constantly facing questions about his poor form.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on February 1, 2011, 0:08 GMT

    @Gilly4ever - mate enough of the White for President of the world campaign. White is not playing great cricket either. I think he has scored about 15 runs more than White this series, & the S/Rate is not great either. Pup has ALWAYS captained Oz well, he did that before White was a regular in the Oz side, & has continued to captain Oz well since. White didn't even bowl S Smith in the T20s earlier this year. Please don't get me wrong I am happy White is captaining the T20 side & I'm happy he is playing in the ODI side - but White needs to show he is a better player than what he is doing now to be even considered. As for Christian - yes I would of had him in my squad - but I went soft on him after the PMs XI game -his bowling was Z Grade that day, (worse than MJ on a bad day!).I would hope he is selected heavily & groomed well for the next W/Cup along with O'Keefe & other young talent. Clarke is going to India & its best you support rather than bag, funny if he ends up MVP of the series!

  • Dinesh on January 31, 2011, 20:32 GMT

    lol @ Deepak Madhavan

    And while you are at it Mr. Chapell, also talk about how Dhoni's captaincy is all luck and how he should be dropped because of his non performance! More importantly - please point out to our readers that the 1983 world cup win was a fluke and that sort of thing is not likely to happen again!

  • Alex on January 31, 2011, 15:28 GMT

    why spare Michael Clarke? Because there is no one there. All players in the squad are journey players. i can assure you if ricky pontin regain his aggressive form , clarke will follow suit. it is just that he can't be the main man. People can choke run from him at critical pressure situation. He can't manufacture run. He can be a good captain but he lacks the respect or leadership qualities. team mates despises him and fans despises his arse.

    Aussie selectors are under pressure now with no one coming and cement their spot. That is the only reason they are hanging on to this no talent dude with some political connection.

    Aussies used to get rid of fine players before they reach their full shelf life period , now see them , they want to keep out of form , talentless , mentally weak michael clarke. Captain is as good as team he has. Unfortunately aussies don't have that much talent now. So you don't need good captaincy now. What aussie needs is batsman who can post centuries.

  • Adrian on January 31, 2011, 15:25 GMT

    There's a young fellow by the name of Dan Christian who isn't getting a game, which is quite remarkable given his batting and bowling averages in one day domestic cricket. Oh and don't forget that forgotten fellow Brad Hodge. Both of these really should be automatic selections in the current Australian team, especially for the World Cup, while right now Michael Clarke shouldn't be considered, especially not as captain. There's one fellow who should be captaining and that fellow's name is Cameron White. This isn't hard. Clarke can come back in the team if and when he legitimately earns his place. I don't think Clarke should ever be captain again though. Right now he doesn't deserve either.

  • JIGNESH on January 31, 2011, 14:45 GMT

    M. Clarke now become the Saurav Ganguly in 2003-2004. Any other batsmen gonna be dropped if he wouldn't perform well, but the captain won't, no matter he cannot make ODI style runs. Aus fans believe it or not, but M. Clarke (PUP) is not good enough for short format cricket like ODIs, and definitely not for T20s. But they made him captain, so there is no way anyone can kick him out now.

  • Aditya on January 31, 2011, 13:40 GMT

    Ian. I like your views at most times. However what this chap is going through is very normal is sport all over the world. You have been critical of players from other nations in the past about their incompetency at various times. Why spare him?

  • Dummy4 on January 31, 2011, 13:02 GMT

    Unbelievable Aussies selection is known for Perform or Perished policy where Micheal Clarke is struggling since Australi tour of India,He was completely out of sort in Five Ashes test series and was one of the main reason for their Ashes debacle and in Current one day interantional against england still he not scoring big,In Past players like Taylor,Waugh brothers,Hayden etc were forced to retire due to age factor and not converting promising start to big one in latter part of their carrear.I think He is damn too lucky to be in this Australian side forget about leading.Further this is the clear indication how Current Australian cricket status too

  • Dummy4 on January 31, 2011, 12:56 GMT

    Micheal Form must consider himself lucky to led the team at the moment.We all know what Australian selector has done to their former players in the past by nailing them when they are not so in good form.Players like Martyn,Gillespie.Stuart clarke,Steve waugh,Mark Waugh,Hayden and to certain extent Shane warne and Glenn Mcgrath were force to retire or kept out they not scoring big even though not stuggling as in case of Clark.This is well proof that the current Australian bench strength lack quality for replacement and the Australian selector not take chances keeping World cup in mind which means their policy Perform or perished has gone for atoss.....

  • Ritesh on January 31, 2011, 10:26 GMT

    @Alexk400 - Needless and unjustified criticism of a very good player. Every international batsman who's played long enough goes through such phases in his career. It is only a matter of time before Clarke starts scoring big again. Not too long ago, the media and fans were baying for Michael Hussey's blood. Look how he responded! Ian rightly says that Clarke needs to score a BIG score to start feeling good again and considering the talent that he possesses, he'll get it sooner than later.

  • kapilesh on January 31, 2011, 10:11 GMT

    Like slump in michael clarks cricket ,I think there is a slump in the interest in your articles as well mr.Ian Chappel .I think you wrote too many articles on clarke which all the readers are finding pretty boring .I think michael clarke is going through a bad phase and the current form of australian team is not helping him but still he will bounce back very soon .because whenever mr.chappel criticize any player that player comes up with good performances .

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