February 13, 2012

Clarke treads in the footsteps of the greats

Australia's three great modern captains have been Richie Benaud, Ian Chappell and Mark Taylor. And their latest leader may soon be counted among them
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Michael Clarke has the indefinable measure of cricket nous, which lifts him above the ruck. He has won seven of his first 12 matches as Test captain, and though mere statistics don't tell the story, he has led a largely young and inexperienced Australian team with flair and a good dollop of common sense. Even at this early stage of his reign it is obvious that he is destined to walk with the greats.

Since Don Bradman, Australia's most outstanding captains have been Richie Benaud, Ian Chappell and Mark Taylor.

Benaud was Test captaincy's modern torch-bearer. He took the leadership to a another level by cutting the old "them and us" thing with the press, inviting journalists to after-match press conferences, celebrating on the field at the fall of a wicket, even calling for team meetings before matches. Opposition players were analysed. Plans to diminish their effectiveness were put in place - the kind of team talks that are commonplace today.

Benaud was lucky to have Neil Harvey as his deputy, and also to be able to lean on Keith Miller as a mentor. So too, Shane Warne, whose leadership skills were on display at Hampshire, where Clarke played for a time, must have made an impact on Australia's new Test captain. Both Miller and Warne were brilliant cricketers, with astute cricket brains. They would have made wonderful Test captains but for off-field events that gave administrators the yips.

Until the 1957-58 Australian tour of South Africa under Ian Craig, Benaud's career was treading water, but in that series he batted and bowled magnificently, hitting two magnificent centuries and taking four bags of five wickets. The tour was the renaissance of Benaud's cricket career, taking him to a new world of success. It also brought him the Test captaincy; when Craig fell ill, Benaud was chosen as his successor, ahead of the more fancied Harvey.

As Benaud's all-round skills continued to improve, he impressed with his captaincy too. Against Peter May's England team in 1958-59, the Australians thrashed the tourists 4-0.

Perhaps Benaud's greatest hour was the 1960-61 tour by West Indies. Cricket worldwide had been in the doldrums: defensive fields, leg theory, lots of slow, boring play, too many drawn matches. At tea on the last day of the first Test in Brisbane, Australia were 108 for 6, with Alan Davidson on 16 and Benaud 6. The team need a further 123 in even time to win the match. Bradman asked Benaud: "Richie, what are you going for? A win or a draw?"

"A win, of course," Benaud declared.

Clarke leads a team of enthusiastic young men who are enjoying the environment of a winning outfit. They appear to want to run through a brick wall for him, just as those before him gave everything to the likes of Benaud, Chappell and Taylor

"Glad to hear it."

It is now history, but the game ended in the first tied Test in history. It paved the way for a remarkable series, which captured the imagination of the public.

In December 1963, during the second over of South Africa's innings at the Gabba, the players and the crowd were aghast when Colin Egar no-balled Ian Meckiff for throwing. Benaud was criticised for not trying Meckiff from Egar's end and thus testing the other umpire, Lou Rowan, who stood at square leg. However, Benaud stuck to his guns. One of his bowlers had been called for chucking and he apparently believed it unfair to "test" the other umpire and perhaps prolong Meckiff's agony. Astute and willing to take risks, Benaud was the first great Australian captain after Bradman, creating a benchmark for those to follow.

Chappell took over from Bill Lawry for the seventh Test of the 1970-71 series against England. His opposing captain was Ray Illingworth, a man who fought to the death, took no prisoners, and was an outstanding leader, managing to get the best out of moody Sussex fast bowler John Snow.

Chappell learned from Illingworth, from how Les Favell attacked, and from how Lawry created pressure on an opponent with deft field placement. An aggressive batsman, Chappell also bowled good-quality legspin, so he saw the merits of a balanced attack.

During a tense time in his first Test as captain, Chappell tossed the ball to debutant Ken Eastwood, the Victorian opening batsman. Eastwood's high-tossed delivery didn't hit the pitch before Keith Fletcher met the ball, but he mistimed and it flew gently to Keith Stackpole in the inner circle.

The 1972 Australian tour of England was Chappell's "Battle of Britain". Australia had axed Lawry, Ian Redpath and Graham McKenzie and were a largely untried lot; young but willing combatants up against Illingworth's "Dad's Army".

Chappell created an environment of empowerment and trust. He invited us to drinks in his "lounge room", which happened to be the front bar of the Waldorf Hotel in the Aldwych, a Keith Miller drive from Australia House. This was not a time to get plastered; it was all about camaraderie and getting to know one another. Regular visitors joining us for a jar were pop legend Mick Jagger and Australian actor Ed Devereaux. Mixing with their team-mates for a few drinks was never the go for the likes of Bradman and Lawry. Bradman said in defence of his never going to a bar that he didn't have to indulge in a beer-drinking contest. But it wasn't about that; just being there would have sufficed and helped them to better get to know their team-mates.

Chappell inherited much of his strength of character from his father, Martin, and his grandfather Vic Richardson, who led Australia to a 4-0 victory over South Africa in 1935-36. Like his grandson, Richardson played cricket hard and fair and had a keen sense of humour. How he would have enjoyed this story.

South Australia were playing at the Gabba against Queensland once. As we were walking out onto the field, Chappelli brushed past one of our opening bowlers, Andrew Sincock, who was blow-drying his hair in front of the mirror near the dressing-room door. Chappelli sidled up to me and said:

"Mate, I want you to open the bowling. Come into the wind after Fang's [Wayne Prior] first over."

"Why?"

"No bastard who blow-dries his hair just as we are about to take the field is going to open the bowling in any team I lead."

Chappelli had a great regard for the job of leading Australia, and to those of us lucky enough to have played under his captaincy, he is very much the "captain for life". He could be hard as nails, but whenever an old team-mate is in any way in trouble, Chappelli is the first man to his side.

Taylor took over from Allan Border, whose 93 Tests as captain yielded 32 wins. Whereas Border was initially a reluctant captain, Taylor was brimful of confidence and purpose. Border's leadership was supported by coach Bob Simpson, and at that time the Australians needed a tough coach-cum-mentor who would drill them relentlessly in the basic skills. Legend has it that when Simpson introduced Taylor to the players, the new captain stepped "up to the plate" and addressed the troops with an assertiveness that told them straightaway that here was a born leader.

And how Taylor led Australia. He took his men to Pakistan in 1998 and won the series. Then England toured Australia and Taylor's men beat them 3-1, with one draw. As with his illustrious predecessors, Taylor led with inspiration; he tried to make things happen - with an imaginative declaration, an inventive field placing, or brilliant bowling change. And as with Benaud and Chappell before him, Taylor gave free rein to his batsmen to play their shots. That was manna from heaven for the likes of Mark Waugh, a lovely free-scoring stylist.

As a slip fieldsman Taylor ranks with the best, perhaps slightly ahead of Chappell, if not as good as Simpson, arguably the best pair of hands at first slip in cricket history. In his first ODI as captain (filling in for the injured Border) Taylor got single figures but won Man of the Match against West Indies. It was a low-scoring shortened game on a greentop under lights and Taylor's reward came in the wake of four magnificent catches he took at first slip.

Taylor didn't brook nonsense. A man's man, he likes a beer and a chat. Respectful of the traditions of the game, he is highly regarded in world cricket. The players who toiled under his captaincy revere him. Yes, he had the great ones - Warne and Glenn McGrath - to call upon in the field, but it was under Taylor's influence that their partnership flourished. As captain, Taylor was tops, and that was apparent in his last couple of seasons, when his batting consistency deserted him. It was his brilliant leadership that kept his head above water, and the selectors stuck by him.

Before Warne was joined by offspinner Tim May, Taylor utilised the spin of Mark Waugh, who was more than useful and often gave his captain added variety. In 1993, Warne and May were handled brilliantly by Taylor. Their partnership bloomed as they attacked in tandem.

Statistically Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting are miles ahead as captains in terms of win-loss ratio, but we don't say Tendulkar or Border are better batsmen than Bradman because of the number of runs they scored

Statistically Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting are miles ahead as captains in terms of win-loss ratio, but we don't say Tendulkar or Border are better batsmen than Bradman because of the number of runs they scored. Waugh had 41 victories in 57 games as captain, Ponting 48 wins in 77 matches. However, when Waugh got into trouble he quickly ran on the defensive. In his last season Waugh had his fast men bowl to a 7-2 field and India scored something in excess of 700.

Waugh may have led the side in 15 of Australia's record-breaking 16 Test wins on the trot, but you have to assess the quality of the opposition at the time. His team played a lot of cricket against the minnows, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, the emerging Sri Lanka, and a West Indian team that was rapidly fading to relative insignificance compared with the powerful, all-conquering sides led by Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards.

Ponting tended to lead like Steve Waugh. Mount up the runs, and then have Warne, McGrath and Co finish them off. Lloyd did similarly, scoring a mountain of runs, even batting on to score the other team out of contention, then setting his four fast bowlers on the opposition. That day in Cardiff, when Monty Panesar held out for ten overs as Ponting continued to bowl Nathan Hauritz and didn't call upon Simon Katich's wrist spin early on was a huge indictment of the way the side was being led.

Thankfully Clarke has led by example and by instinct. He has a lot of flair about him and is ever mindful of the need to take wickets, knowing that getting wickets at regular intervals breaks the rhythm of the batting side.

His treatment of offspinner Nathan Lyon has been an interesting study this summer. We've seen how Lyon often operates too wide of the crease when bowling over the wicket to right-handers, but Clarke has helped Lyon create an angle away by getting him to bowl around the wicket. The ploy worked beautifully at Adelaide Oval, when Lyon made Tendulkar struggle for survival before delivering the killer blow.

Clarke doesn't have the luxury of a Warne or a McGrath in his side, but he leads a team of enthusiastic young men who are enjoying the environment of a winning outfit. They appear to want to run through a brick wall for Clarke, just as those before him gave everything to the likes of Benaud, Chappell and Taylor. It is not too fanciful to foresee Clarke one day walking alongside that trio of great Australian captains.

Ashley Mallett took 132 Tests wickets in 38 Tests for Australia. An author of over 25 books, he has written biographies of Clarrie Grimmett, Doug Walters, Jeff Thomson and Ian Chappell

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • zenboomerang on February 15, 2012, 7:23 GMT

    Mallett hits his fingers again... Putting Clarke anywhere near a "great" captain is just plain dumb... Allan Border did the most, with the least, of all captains since the 50's... Also AB & Simmo built up a very strong team from one of the worst teams at international level & handed Tubby an already successful team - Taylor, Slater, Boon, S+M Waugh, Langer, Bevan, Blewitt, Healy, Warne, McGrath, McDermott, May, Angel, Fleming... With both Waugh's being allrounders in their earlier days... Tubby was captain for only a few months when Oz were being praised as world champions... Its easy to captain a team of great players - try doing it from scratch...

  • hornet18 on February 15, 2012, 2:06 GMT

    Always interesting to note how Ian Chappell's friend's share the same prejudices. Namely it is always the strange and compelling desire to have a crack at Steve Waugh whenever the faintest opportunity arises. Personally I thank Steve Waugh for carrying on and bringing on the aggressive attacking cricket that Border started and which was also embellished by Taylor. Test cricket got a whole lot more watchable and it rose the bar for all other international teams. Soon everyone was trying to score at four an over. Also, as a (minor) sportsman it taught me that positive attacking play would reward you eight times out of ten and to therefore have the courage to do that.

  • Meety on February 14, 2012, 23:53 GMT

    @Captain_Oblivious - dunno about being the most influential cricketer since Bradman, but what I do know, is back in the 80s, everything semed to be OK whilst Border was at the crease. It really was true, that most Ozzys would first ask, "what's the score" followed quickly by "is Border still in?". AB quickly realised the "value" of Warne & used him heavily - but Border was conservative (had to be), as a result of where his captaincy developed from. I would say, that without Border, Tubby Taylor may not have been able to become the captain he was, (IMO - the best I've ever seen), without Taylor, S Waugh may not of been able to establish his "mental disinigration" mantra. Who knows, but for mine the instinct to create chances was far stronger in Taylor than Waugh/Border/G Chappell. Early days, but I see Clarke one day held in the same level of respect for his captaincy accumen!

  • NAP73 on February 14, 2012, 23:39 GMT

    Yes, definitely seems to be a propaganda campaign. I am still not convinced by Clarke (particularly when the chips are down) and he needs to show a lot more yet. Aus couldn't even beat NZ at home for goodness sake.

  • BillyCC on February 14, 2012, 20:50 GMT

    @Witty_Cricketer, Taylor only had Warne in his prime. McGrath hit his straps in the 1995 Windies tour and only struck his prime in the late nineties when Taylor had almost finished. During Taylor's captaincy, he had bowlers such as Fleming, Reiffel, Julian, Kasper etc. Waugh had McGrath, Lee, Gillespie all at their primes, and Warne probably at just below his prime. I know which bowling attack I would rather have at my disposal.

  • MrDynamic on February 14, 2012, 20:09 GMT

    Ian Chappell MAY have been a good captain but lacks good analytical ability.He is one dimensional. Steve Waugh is the greatest Australian captain ever who kept the egos of the greatest talents together and kept them as a team.

  • RandyOZ on February 14, 2012, 16:36 GMT

    Mallet has failed to mention that there are different types of captains. In terms of leading by example, there is literally no better captain than Punter. If you didn't wanna play for him when he was blasting a century every second innings you had rocks in your head. You could argue he had a good team, and he did, but I tell you right now they played for him. I've lost count of how many matches he won/saved off his own bat. Not to mention his fielding.

  • Erebus26 on February 14, 2012, 16:06 GMT

    Steady on Ash. Clarke has potential but that is all he has at the moment. Wins in Sri Lanka and at home to India must be tempered by humiliating defeats to South Africa and New Zealand. Mallett seems to be following some of the Channel Nine crowd in positively promoting Clarke's captaincy at every opportunity knowing that he wasn't a popular choice with the Aussie public. Some Aussies I know still remain sceptical although they were happy with the whitewash over India. They'll be far tougher challenges ahead for Clarke and it will be interesting to see how he deals with the pressure once it's applied. I just think all these plaudits for Clarke's captaincy at the moment smacks of a propaganda campaign.

  • Witty_Cricketer on February 14, 2012, 14:32 GMT

    Ian Chappel and his mates (read Ashley Mallet) some how don't give the credit Steve Waugh deserves. They say Steve Waugh had Mcgrath & Wane so anybody could have captained, but then Taylor and Ponting had them too. Simply put under Taylor Australia was a good team, under Steve Waugh they became a great team and great deals credit goes to Steve Waugh for turning them into ruthless winning team.

  • tpjpower on February 14, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    Taylor didn't captain Australia during the 1993 Ashes - Border did.

  • zenboomerang on February 15, 2012, 7:23 GMT

    Mallett hits his fingers again... Putting Clarke anywhere near a "great" captain is just plain dumb... Allan Border did the most, with the least, of all captains since the 50's... Also AB & Simmo built up a very strong team from one of the worst teams at international level & handed Tubby an already successful team - Taylor, Slater, Boon, S+M Waugh, Langer, Bevan, Blewitt, Healy, Warne, McGrath, McDermott, May, Angel, Fleming... With both Waugh's being allrounders in their earlier days... Tubby was captain for only a few months when Oz were being praised as world champions... Its easy to captain a team of great players - try doing it from scratch...

  • hornet18 on February 15, 2012, 2:06 GMT

    Always interesting to note how Ian Chappell's friend's share the same prejudices. Namely it is always the strange and compelling desire to have a crack at Steve Waugh whenever the faintest opportunity arises. Personally I thank Steve Waugh for carrying on and bringing on the aggressive attacking cricket that Border started and which was also embellished by Taylor. Test cricket got a whole lot more watchable and it rose the bar for all other international teams. Soon everyone was trying to score at four an over. Also, as a (minor) sportsman it taught me that positive attacking play would reward you eight times out of ten and to therefore have the courage to do that.

  • Meety on February 14, 2012, 23:53 GMT

    @Captain_Oblivious - dunno about being the most influential cricketer since Bradman, but what I do know, is back in the 80s, everything semed to be OK whilst Border was at the crease. It really was true, that most Ozzys would first ask, "what's the score" followed quickly by "is Border still in?". AB quickly realised the "value" of Warne & used him heavily - but Border was conservative (had to be), as a result of where his captaincy developed from. I would say, that without Border, Tubby Taylor may not have been able to become the captain he was, (IMO - the best I've ever seen), without Taylor, S Waugh may not of been able to establish his "mental disinigration" mantra. Who knows, but for mine the instinct to create chances was far stronger in Taylor than Waugh/Border/G Chappell. Early days, but I see Clarke one day held in the same level of respect for his captaincy accumen!

  • NAP73 on February 14, 2012, 23:39 GMT

    Yes, definitely seems to be a propaganda campaign. I am still not convinced by Clarke (particularly when the chips are down) and he needs to show a lot more yet. Aus couldn't even beat NZ at home for goodness sake.

  • BillyCC on February 14, 2012, 20:50 GMT

    @Witty_Cricketer, Taylor only had Warne in his prime. McGrath hit his straps in the 1995 Windies tour and only struck his prime in the late nineties when Taylor had almost finished. During Taylor's captaincy, he had bowlers such as Fleming, Reiffel, Julian, Kasper etc. Waugh had McGrath, Lee, Gillespie all at their primes, and Warne probably at just below his prime. I know which bowling attack I would rather have at my disposal.

  • MrDynamic on February 14, 2012, 20:09 GMT

    Ian Chappell MAY have been a good captain but lacks good analytical ability.He is one dimensional. Steve Waugh is the greatest Australian captain ever who kept the egos of the greatest talents together and kept them as a team.

  • RandyOZ on February 14, 2012, 16:36 GMT

    Mallet has failed to mention that there are different types of captains. In terms of leading by example, there is literally no better captain than Punter. If you didn't wanna play for him when he was blasting a century every second innings you had rocks in your head. You could argue he had a good team, and he did, but I tell you right now they played for him. I've lost count of how many matches he won/saved off his own bat. Not to mention his fielding.

  • Erebus26 on February 14, 2012, 16:06 GMT

    Steady on Ash. Clarke has potential but that is all he has at the moment. Wins in Sri Lanka and at home to India must be tempered by humiliating defeats to South Africa and New Zealand. Mallett seems to be following some of the Channel Nine crowd in positively promoting Clarke's captaincy at every opportunity knowing that he wasn't a popular choice with the Aussie public. Some Aussies I know still remain sceptical although they were happy with the whitewash over India. They'll be far tougher challenges ahead for Clarke and it will be interesting to see how he deals with the pressure once it's applied. I just think all these plaudits for Clarke's captaincy at the moment smacks of a propaganda campaign.

  • Witty_Cricketer on February 14, 2012, 14:32 GMT

    Ian Chappel and his mates (read Ashley Mallet) some how don't give the credit Steve Waugh deserves. They say Steve Waugh had Mcgrath & Wane so anybody could have captained, but then Taylor and Ponting had them too. Simply put under Taylor Australia was a good team, under Steve Waugh they became a great team and great deals credit goes to Steve Waugh for turning them into ruthless winning team.

  • tpjpower on February 14, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    Taylor didn't captain Australia during the 1993 Ashes - Border did.

  • on February 14, 2012, 12:59 GMT

    i would rate steve waugh as the best aussie captain, with ponting right behind him...looking at the stats

    if you want titbits of cricket than there is no one better than tony cozier to tell you some of them,

    micheal clarke is still a pup, and you might be writing an article against his brand of captaincy in time to come.

  • venbas on February 14, 2012, 8:16 GMT

    The problem with some great players like Sachin is that they do not understand when their time is up. Like Warne who retired in a blaze of glory, Sachin should have done the same during the World Cup. He did not do that and continued playing and along with fellow uncles took India to a unprecedented 8-0 walloping on foreign shores. Now every Tom, Dick and Ashley will run him down and mark him out as inferior to older/modern greats.

  • US_Indian on February 14, 2012, 4:40 GMT

    I would not regard either Clark or Ponting to be great still because Clark has a long way to prove and Ponting inherited a wonderful team which had individual match winners so marshaling those resources and winning is not an outstanding achievement as such but definitely should get his due credit. I have not seen those 3 guys mentioned above but had first hand info about their exploits. If I would regard as a modern great cricketing captain of Aussies that should go to Allan Border who literally brought the self belief in his young team with his never say die attitude, statistics does not say all that even his 33-35% success rate is still marvelous by any standards. The next in line could be Steve Waugh but to a lesser extent than Border. In my opinion the best captains are those who have mediocre resources and mould them into a fighting and winning units with their mentoring, a never say die attitude building, creating self belief and a winning habit or never losing habits.

  • soberspectator on February 14, 2012, 4:07 GMT

    You have got to be joking!! Remember December last year in Hobart when the Aussie cricket team were beaten by NZ!! Australia are making far too much of the achievement of beating India. No one captain can be rated until they have at least done the circuit of playing and leading a team against the key top five nations at home and away. Achievements over many years is the starting point to assess someone's greatness in any role in cricket, not just doing well in a handfull of home based games against substandard opposition. To be honest it is comments like this that feed the NZ view of commentators to our west as being less than objective and insightfu,l and not reallly up to scratch. Write the same copy in 2018 with evidence and I will believe it!!

  • Captain_Oblivious on February 14, 2012, 3:25 GMT

    On Steve Waugh, what Ashley is saying is that his team would do the whole "mental disintegration" thing and often beat teams before the game even started. His captaincy was vibrant and imaginative when things were going well and his team bludgeoning the opposition. When the batsmen got on top however (Lara in '99, India in '01, India 03/04) Waugh was clueless and became distinctly unimaginative and defensive. It didn't occur often because he had one of the great teams of all time and played against mostly poor opposition. WI were terrible, and so were England, Pakistan had about 20 captains, and SA were in a transition period in 01/02 where Allan Donald was a medium pacer by then with Shaun Pollock a yard slower. Clarke is certainly in the Taylor/Warne mould and Border was outstanding, but tended to get anxious with 4th innings run chases (totally understandable given the team he had in the 80's). I still think Border is the most influential Australian cricketer since Bradman.

  • on February 14, 2012, 2:46 GMT

    As usual, another thoughtful article from Mallett, and I agree with his conclusions, although it's a little early to take the measure of Clarke as captain. I think we need to see him in action when he's severly pressed, which the Indians couldn't do this summer. Whether the West Indians can do any more will be seen, but he does seem to have that knack, as Taylor did, of making the oportune bowling or field change that comes off. Hopefully the captaincy continues to have a positive effect on his batting, which is the other thing that has improved out of sight - we need it - too much reliance on the old stagers against India for mine.

  • Puffin on February 14, 2012, 0:08 GMT

    Yes, he has got off to a good enough start to be allowed to get on with pulling the Aussie out of a serious dip. The results are always important and it is clear from these alone, if nothing else, that he's on the right track. There are many challenges ahead, some of which have recently tripped up apparently much better teams recently. At this point regaining the ashes does not seem quite the big mountain to climb. England should be watching carefully what happens next.

  • Deenesh on February 13, 2012, 23:15 GMT

    A bit early to be saying too much, a lot can happen. Clarke has potential tho, for sure

  • unregisteredalien on February 13, 2012, 21:34 GMT

    @Bollo, something tells me that's another Englishman. It's cute how defensive they are of their #1 ranking. It must really hurt them to admit they'll be mere transient caretakers, like India were, until a southern hemisphere team (one or the other) gets around to picking it up.

  • spence1324 on February 13, 2012, 21:17 GMT

    @Bollo 'complete humiliation of india' you must have mist the bus mate because england have been there done that and have the T-shirt, Ps now that the series has ended can you fax englands how to beat india template back to the ECB please!

  • oze13 on February 13, 2012, 20:50 GMT

    and Dennis Lillee never used a hair dryer. Yeah right!

  • oze13 on February 13, 2012, 20:46 GMT

    Admittedly there are lots of aussies eating humble pie because no-one wanted him as captain. But he's done a good job so far. But, there are much sterner tests ahead. He also need to manage his young fast bowlers better. He's over bowled two young guns already and they've developed injuries. But 8/10 so far!

  • BillyCC on February 13, 2012, 20:27 GMT

    @Richard Johnson, Clarke won something credible in Asia, his first series as captain against Sri Lanka, which was a terrific effort. Not even Taylor or Waugh won their first series in the subcontinent, Taylor lost 1-0 against Pakistan and Waugh lost 1-0 against Sri Lanka. And just on Taylor's captaincy record, his record is better than both Ponting's and Waugh's because the record should not be based on win-loss ratios of MATCHES, but win-loss ratios based on SERIES. Taylor only ever lost two series: India and Pakistan. Waugh lost two and drawn two or three. Ponting has lost five or six.

  • on February 13, 2012, 20:03 GMT

    I wonder what other absurd predictions are in the 25 books Mr Mallett has written... Xavier Doherty to take 500 Test wickets? Dale Steyn to switch to leg-spin? Maybe Jonathan Trott will score the first triple century in ODIs?? Australia have just bowled quite well on fast, green wickets. They still have the fourth best attack in world cricket and their batting is awful.

  • Paulk on February 13, 2012, 19:31 GMT

    Captaincy depends on so many variables that it seems foolhardy to rank them except very generally so, especially someone who has hardly begun his tenure. Allan Border is generally not regarded as a great tactician or even a great communicator but surely his leading by personal example in a team of average to mediocre players should put him alongside the best captains in history. There are many ways to becoming a great captain. In addition to having outstanding statistical record, as I recall Steve Waugh's team fundamentally altered the way cricket was played. Surely that puts him alongside the best. It appears Ashley Mallett is taking his cue from Ian Chappell. Great crickets do not necessarily make objective journalists.

  • lihtness on February 13, 2012, 19:20 GMT

    Funny thing is this. Greatest captains were almost always hailed during their term's end. Anybody who is applauded so early have mostly disappointed in long term at least in cricket.

  • nkoch on February 13, 2012, 18:57 GMT

    Ashley has started counting the chicken before eggs have hatched. True test of the captain is in bad times, when team does not perform and Captain has to lead the way. Let Clark do that for years and then we shall bestow the honor upon him. For now, he's just a naive captain with a stern test looming down the road.

  • big_al_81 on February 13, 2012, 18:34 GMT

    Wow, I honestly thought it was just a few excitable folks in the subcontinent who got carried away with a bit of success but the last few months have shown a worrying tendency for Aussies to do the same. You have got to get a grip! Clarke's doing fine especially with his batting, but he's been tested in one series which only lasted 2 tests - they were walloped in one of them and one the other well. Otherwise it's been a very weak Sri Lanka (away, which deserves extra marks) and a shocking India side who were still reeling from the mauling England gave them. The comments on the old captains are all well and good but it is embarrassing and increasingly typical of Cricinfo in the last couple of years to give in to hyperbole. Like I say, someone please get a grip!

  • Bollo on February 13, 2012, 18:32 GMT

    So Trickstar, a series win in SL, drawn series in SAf , drawn series at home against the Kiwis, and a complete humiliation of India not good enough for you. May I ask where you`re from exactly?

  • Trickstar on February 13, 2012, 17:59 GMT

    Surely this in jest, a drawn series against NZ at home, drawn against SA, a win against a SL side that hadn't been paid in god knows how long and a win against a totally demoralized India, who are set for massive changes. Start writing articles such as this when he's been over to England and won or SA, or even India and Pakistan, or for that matter beaten a decent side in his own back yard.

  • Ravster_Xi on February 13, 2012, 17:53 GMT

    hi ashley, well said and i think the most imprtant bit is covered in the below statement:

    " So too, Shane Warne, whose leadership skills were on display at Hampshire, where Clarke played for a time, must have made an impact on Australia's new Test captain"

    never forget after graeme smith spent a time at Rajasthan Royals, his captaincy iproved. who was he captained by? none other than warne!!!

  • on February 13, 2012, 17:45 GMT

    I've never felt compelled to write in to any of these columns, until now. Steve Waugh was the greatest captain I have ever seen in 40 years, and to not include him the likes of Benaud, Taylor etc is just utterly absurd. And to say the Clarke could become a great, well that's the icing on the cake because I don't rate him at all, he just looks after his mates more than anything - opening Ponting in the last ODI for example? Huh?? He makes a lot of dumb decisions in my opinion and wont ever be considered great, absolutely no chance.

  • Krade on February 13, 2012, 17:31 GMT

    "Statistically Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting are miles ahead as captains in terms of win-loss ratio, but we don't say Tendulkar or Border are better batsmen than Bradman because of the number of runs they scored" That is just stupid. win-loss ratio for captains is equivalent to batting average for batsmen. Similarly, most wins will be equivalent to most runs, regardless of matches played.

  • Aussasinator on February 13, 2012, 16:37 GMT

    He's on his way, clearly miles ahead of his predecessor, but needs to win a bit more to get into reckoning as a great captain.

  • unregisteredalien on February 13, 2012, 16:24 GMT

    @Front-Foot-Lunge, you're aptly named but that was clumsy. Aus cricket may not be at its zenith but we're on the up, Clarke's shown fine form as captain so far and Mallett may be proven correct in the long run (by comparison, I don't remember Vaughan even having a long run). Your boys have hardly distinguished themselves vs Pakistan on neutral ground so I have no idea why you'd be crowing right now. I look forward to seeing you pop up here during the next Ashes series to defend your team's performance - or will you have gone quiet by then?

  • Chrissammy7 on February 13, 2012, 15:48 GMT

    where is credit for Steve Waugh and Ricky Pointing???? aren't they the duo who led Australia through Decade of Dominance?????

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on February 13, 2012, 15:30 GMT

    Is this article an attempt at humour? Because almost the entire cricketing world seems to think so!

  • on February 13, 2012, 14:27 GMT

    lol .. let him win some thing credible in asia, before coming to these amazing conclusions ROFL!!

  • on February 13, 2012, 14:27 GMT

    The best measure of Clarke's captaincy credentials is certainly in the way he has used his bowlers and set fields. Without Warne and McGrath, he has still been able to take wickets quickly. Some greenish wickets have contributed, but he has not let the game linger at any point, he has been proactive and always maintained the ascendency.

  • 360review on February 13, 2012, 14:11 GMT

    Seriously!!!! Did Ashley even think before writing this article. I guess it must be a moral boosting idea for Australia, since the tough series will soon begin.

  • Barnesy4444 on February 13, 2012, 13:53 GMT

    I remember watching Clarke captain his first international game. It happened to be a 20/20. The Aussies were struggling but Clarke made a few choice filding changes including a slip and mid-wicket and we got 2 quick wickets turngin the match in our favour. That's the effect a good captain can make. Ponting would have put another fielder on the boundary.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on February 13, 2012, 13:37 GMT

    Clarke has long been considered a clown as captain, a bunglar in the field who comes no where near to the likes of Michael Vaughan or Steve Waugh. Having England serve India up on a plate for a middle-ranking, average Australia team to take is nothing to write home about. What a comical article this is!

  • on February 13, 2012, 11:49 GMT

    Surely an aussie captain can't be judged until after an ashes series or two.

  • on February 13, 2012, 11:24 GMT

    i think ...they forget that how hardly clarke won series in S.L last year & drawn series against S.A...By the way i think Ponting is the best captain in history of crcket...taylor records was not good...and why noo body is talking about ponting record of leading 16 matches win in a row... which includes ashes 5-0 2006 white wash ....3-0 against S.A two world cups in a row with out loosing a single game...

  • on February 13, 2012, 11:17 GMT

    Interesting article and a few good points made. However there is some false information 'Before Warne was joined by offspinner Tim May, Taylor utilised the spin of Mark Waugh, who was more than useful and often gave his captain added variety. In 1993, Warne and May were handled brilliantly by Taylor. Their partnership bloomed as they attacked in tandem' In fact Border was still captain in 1993 and it was he who began using Warne and May together. Border may not have started out as a great captain but he improved greatly over time. Clarke has shown the he has the potential to be a good captain, his performance up to the 2013 Ashes will determine this.

  • muski on February 13, 2012, 11:16 GMT

    Aussies also go overboard like Indians in proclaiming the greatness of players- whether they are worth it or not. On the face of it, a guy who ditched his girl friend for the sake of Cricket needs to be congratulated. The batting form shown by him in the recent tests against India has also earned him the respect of the Indian fans. For the sake of Aussie cricket, I hope this bloke develops the unit once againt into a world beating side like Allan Border did. Once that is done, when he hangs up his boots, we can place his alongside the 3 which you have mentioned.

  • Chris_P on February 13, 2012, 11:04 GMT

    @chokkashokka An overseas series & subcontinent tour? When has South Africa & Sri Lanka become a part of Australia? Why can't a former test player who has played under one of the most outstanding captains as well as having a close liaison with great past players offer a point of view? What are your credentials to invalidate them? Anyone with a nous of cricket knowledge can see Clarke is one out of the box as far as captaincy is concerned.

  • on February 13, 2012, 10:33 GMT

    Australia have had a host of very good captains over the ages. While I think Alan Border might just go down as the best natural leader of the bunch, I think that Taylor has to go down as the best thinking captain.

    Border was the kind who really did lead by example and influence whereas Taylor was more a tactician. But that's easier to say in hindsight where Border had a good number of bread and butter players while Taylor inherited those same players once they'd been converted into stars. Influence to tactical... :)

  • Bollo on February 13, 2012, 10:22 GMT

    @nodeax. Four series in charge; away win against SL, away draw against SAf, home draw against NZ, and a demolition job at home vs India. Not a bad start, considering Australian were underdogs in 3 of the 4 series. Not a bad start

  • Bollo on February 13, 2012, 10:19 GMT

    @Deepak, already drew a series in SAf as captain, and played probably the innings of the year there...

  • on February 13, 2012, 10:18 GMT

    And for once, an article that makes loads and loads of cricketing sense and not just going by the results irrespective of the context...

  • Wefinishthis on February 13, 2012, 10:01 GMT

    Tubby Taylor was a fantastic captain, probably my favourite of all time. He just always had a plan up his sleeve. He took the incredible foundation that Border built and ran with it making it into something great. Granted it helps when you have Glenn McGrath in your team. Waugh and Ponting were fine, but they inherited a team that had Glenn McGrath. It's pretty hard not to win when the opposition is always 3-50 after the first 20 overs. It's no co-incidence that Australia's domination began and ended with the career of Glenn McGrath (even when Warne was out, we kept on winning as MacGill was an adequate replacement, but when McGrath was out the opposition was actually able to get 400+ scores). I never got to see Chappell so I'm sure he was a great captain.

  • anuradha_d on February 13, 2012, 9:50 GMT

    Wait...don't be like the english writers...who after merely a 4-0 win over an uninterested India called the side as "one of the greatest teams in history"....before you even consider about the best or finest EVER...wait...have patience.....let Clarke win a series in India and win and defend and ashes and show us how he does in the w'cup even in home conditions......it is a JOKE to even bring up the best or finest EVER based on one season results.

  • mikey76 on February 13, 2012, 9:42 GMT

    True, he does look like a very good captain. It certainly doesn't affect his run scoring but he hasn't really been tested yet.An easy victory over a miserable Indian side is no test of credentials and he did lose at home to NZ. The ashes and a full series against SA will show us if he is as good as Mark Taylor, who was for me Australia's best captain.

  • Advin on February 13, 2012, 9:40 GMT

    After having listened to cricket commentary for over 40 years,there are commentators who are very insightful and make me say .." I never thought of that !" Examples of such commentators are Chappell I,Nasser Hussain,Mark Taylor,Ganguly and Benaud,

    On the other hand there are the cliched types - Shastri,Gavaskar,Botham,Rameez Raja,Wasim Akram, etc who offer nothing new.

    The pattern is unmistakable ...

  • HatsforBats on February 13, 2012, 9:37 GMT

    @ chokkashokka & Deepak Narasimhan; Clarke has already beaten SL and drawn against SA, overseas. He has led with the same exuberance and natural flair for captaincy as he did against India and NZ. He's also backed it up by averaging 60-odd with the bat while scoring some of the best centuries I've seen in years; I think he deserves all the praise he gets at the moment.

  • kjambur on February 13, 2012, 8:51 GMT

    Sorry Ashley Mallett, Good captains know to win. Great captains know HOW to win - with dignity and honour. Two things which Clarke has shown not to have in him. I'm sorry, even Ponting had no greatness. If you disagree, watch the 2008 Sydney match versus India. Winning % has got nothing to do with greatness. I believe only Don Bradman, Clive Lloyd and Anil Kumble have been great captains.

  • on February 13, 2012, 8:44 GMT

    Great????Captaining a team against India at Home. You Serious?

  • on February 13, 2012, 8:39 GMT

    Dont agree with the author on demeaning the era of Steve Waugh. He was arguably the best captain of 1990's among all cricketing nations closely followed by Hansie Cronje. Steve Waugh is the one to reinvent the way test were played at that time. He is the leader of modern cricket era,where you have to score at 4 runs an over even in test. He did struggled in his last season but for a major part of his regime, he was solid and never took a defeat as a defeat. He crushed the oppositions outt game.

  • ab_cricket on February 13, 2012, 8:20 GMT

    Although I have been impressed by Clarke's captaincy against India, I am not sure yet that he can be categorized in the same league as mentioned in the article. He looks confident and backs himself on the field which are good signs and refreshing to see but true character will be reflected when they travel to other parts of the world. Even going to England would be a good test as a captain least to talk about the subcontinent. One thing that helped him was his extraordinary form in the series against India. What happens to his captaincy when he is in wretched form is to be seen yet.

  • on February 13, 2012, 8:06 GMT

    to all the people that have forgotten..... clarke beat sri lanka in sri lanka and drew with south africa in south africa.... i dont think many of you understand what he is trying to say in this article. the difference with clarke and the way he captains compared to ponting is clearly obvious. if i recall ponting and waugh really struggled to beat india in australia.

  • cric_fan123 on February 13, 2012, 7:59 GMT

    Its quite funny how today's writers tend to jump the gun. Every win is a historic win. Every knock played is an very important innings. Every series win makes you a great captain followed by some hollow stats and analysis. Frankly,I feel i if these same writers mine the data enough they might find Chris Martin to be an reincarnation of bradman himself. Pls publish!!

  • on February 13, 2012, 7:45 GMT

    Hear! Hear!The best thing is: He still has a chance to outdo the three mentioned.

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on February 13, 2012, 7:40 GMT

    Big call to make but I must say Clarke's thinking & invention has been a revelation. Never understood the flak he got from a lot of so called Australian supporters bur I notice they have been noticeably quiet during his first year in the job where , apart from the NZ miniseries, all of the Test series results have been above expectations. Am sure they are biding their time waiting for an inevitable series defeat so that they can pile in again.

  • mcj.cricinfo on February 13, 2012, 7:35 GMT

    Enjoyed the article. Clarke has done a great job so far with the captaincy, have admired the work he has done with an emerging spinner and some young quicks. Steve Waugh is one of the best captains we had, he is up there in the top tier. Did a great job for the players to inspire more pride in the baggy green, ensured that test cricket was entertaining by always going for the win (rain delayed test against NZ springs to mind), and raised the credibility of Australians as a whole with his charity work in India. It's all very well to decry 15 wins in a row, however you can only beat the opponent you're given. Yes, that test in Sydney on a dead pitch v India wasn't one of Waugh's highlights, but neither Lee or McGill (bowled 54 overs in the match for 1 wicket!) stepped up to do the job required in the absence of McGrath and Warne. But every captain has similar stories.

  • on February 13, 2012, 7:26 GMT

    Dear Mr Mallett, for once I'm not quite convinced you have your facts straight. You define Australia's most outstanding captains since Don Bradman to have been Benaud, I Chappell and Taylor. Seemingly, you have forgotten the debt owed Allan Border by all those who came after him. Re Waugh you say "you have to assess the quality of the opposition at the time", something you obviously haven't done in the case of the former. If one does, it's quite obvious that not only was Allan Border an outstanding captain but also that he is Australia's greatest batsman since Bradman - especially when you consider that Border had to face the best fast-bowling attack ever without the level of protection afforded those who came after. Also, don't forget there were others such as Pakistan's Imran and Sarfraz! While beating India 4-0 is encouraging, I'm sure you agree that a captain that sits pretty at 5 with positions 1-3 desperately unsettled does not lead by example and thus cannot be called "great".

  • KK255 on February 13, 2012, 7:25 GMT

    Australians no better than Indians. Eulogising Clarke too early.

  • nodeax on February 13, 2012, 6:43 GMT

    This is hilarious!! One series against a pathetic under-performing Indian side and he's counted amongst the greatest???

  • Meety on February 13, 2012, 6:38 GMT

    Well said. I thought when I first saw Pup captain the Ozzy limited over sides several years ago that he would be a great test captain. I think Warne has had a huge influence on Pup. The other thing about Pup is that captaincy brings out the best in him, statistically his batting average is far above his non-captaincy stats in ODIs & Tests. Whilst last night in the ODI against India, I wouldn't of bowled McKay for all of the last 3 overs, (would of bowled Starc for at least one), the bowling of Doherty right through was inspirational & NEARLY won a match Oz had no right winning when it was only 7rpo req'd with about 10 overs to go!

  • on February 13, 2012, 6:12 GMT

    As always, Mallett's analysis is very good and spot on. In my 30 plus years of watching cricket, the 1996 World Cup semi-finals, where Australia held their nerve to beat the West Indies was the best example of proactive captaincy and trying to make things happen. Stuart Law bowled leg-spin and the killer blow was delivered by Steve Waugh clean bowling Lara. Taylor also gambled by holding back Warne till the very end and WI lost from a position of needing 40 odd runs at run a ball with 7 wickets in hand.

  • Abdullah1991 on February 13, 2012, 6:10 GMT

    I don't think that there is any problem for Aus captain to handle new players. We have seen PJ Forrest making 66 in his debut. Many of Aus new players join their team at a very mature age. The positive sign for Clark is that he is performing well. Unless and until he is performing, he is making his team win and remain as captain like Pointing.

  • redneck on February 13, 2012, 5:55 GMT

    agree with whats written about benaud, taylor and chapelli but strongly disagree about waugh filling his boots against the minnows!!! waugh won against every opponent he came across. not his fault if we played a whole 3 tests against zimbabwe and 2 against bangledesh making 5 test against minnows (we had to give them a game eventually) out of the 57 he was incharge for. also id have border as a great captain, wasnt his fault if he was carrying the other 10 team mates at certain times. ABs who id want to go to war with if i had to pick!

  • ultrasnow on February 13, 2012, 5:51 GMT

    Why bring Tendulkar into it?

  • on February 13, 2012, 5:11 GMT

    I really hope five years from now, I'll be able to look back on this article and congratulate your brillliant thinking, Mr. Mallett.

  • on February 13, 2012, 5:09 GMT

    He is a good captain, agreed; but let us see how he does lead against SA or ENG... I bet, he will be found out and this same writer can post an obituary later.

  • Cricket_theBestGame on February 13, 2012, 5:08 GMT

    i agree..he also has the etiquetes of gentleman on and off the field which is refershing to see compared to ponting. i don't think i've seen ponting say sorry to a bowler/fielder if he bumped him while taking a single..instead he'd lose it compared to clarke's sorry and a smile. good luck clarke !

  • joisbalu on February 13, 2012, 4:45 GMT

    Nice article.. Ponting was really week against India in India..

  • Nihontone on February 13, 2012, 4:31 GMT

    Great article. I think the Australian public has vastly (& unjustly!) under-rated Mark Taylor as captain!

  • Bone101 on February 13, 2012, 4:15 GMT

    I agree that Clarke has had a reasonable start has captain. The rest of the article is pretty much rubbish and should be prefaced with "I think.." at the beginning of each paragraph.

  • chokkashokka on February 13, 2012, 3:51 GMT

    perhaps this article should have been written after once an overseas series has been played - lets post this piece after the next tour of the subcontinent.

  • Woody111 on February 13, 2012, 3:43 GMT

    Thanks Ashley; your best article in my opinion by a stretch.

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  • Woody111 on February 13, 2012, 3:43 GMT

    Thanks Ashley; your best article in my opinion by a stretch.

  • chokkashokka on February 13, 2012, 3:51 GMT

    perhaps this article should have been written after once an overseas series has been played - lets post this piece after the next tour of the subcontinent.

  • Bone101 on February 13, 2012, 4:15 GMT

    I agree that Clarke has had a reasonable start has captain. The rest of the article is pretty much rubbish and should be prefaced with "I think.." at the beginning of each paragraph.

  • Nihontone on February 13, 2012, 4:31 GMT

    Great article. I think the Australian public has vastly (& unjustly!) under-rated Mark Taylor as captain!

  • joisbalu on February 13, 2012, 4:45 GMT

    Nice article.. Ponting was really week against India in India..

  • Cricket_theBestGame on February 13, 2012, 5:08 GMT

    i agree..he also has the etiquetes of gentleman on and off the field which is refershing to see compared to ponting. i don't think i've seen ponting say sorry to a bowler/fielder if he bumped him while taking a single..instead he'd lose it compared to clarke's sorry and a smile. good luck clarke !

  • on February 13, 2012, 5:09 GMT

    He is a good captain, agreed; but let us see how he does lead against SA or ENG... I bet, he will be found out and this same writer can post an obituary later.

  • on February 13, 2012, 5:11 GMT

    I really hope five years from now, I'll be able to look back on this article and congratulate your brillliant thinking, Mr. Mallett.

  • ultrasnow on February 13, 2012, 5:51 GMT

    Why bring Tendulkar into it?

  • redneck on February 13, 2012, 5:55 GMT

    agree with whats written about benaud, taylor and chapelli but strongly disagree about waugh filling his boots against the minnows!!! waugh won against every opponent he came across. not his fault if we played a whole 3 tests against zimbabwe and 2 against bangledesh making 5 test against minnows (we had to give them a game eventually) out of the 57 he was incharge for. also id have border as a great captain, wasnt his fault if he was carrying the other 10 team mates at certain times. ABs who id want to go to war with if i had to pick!