March 14, 2012

Why Clarke must give up the ODI captaincy

His injuries and absences are unsettling Australia's young side. The selectors must save him for Tests and hand the one-day reins to a deserving candidate

To ensure a longer Test career Michael Clarke must step down as captain of the ODI squad.

His injured back is not only taking a toll on his hamstrings, it is playing Russian roulette with his international future. Having your captain in and out of the side due to a recurring injury cannot but upset the rhythm and stability of any team at the international level. By his own admission Clarke came back too soon after injury. And because of the packed programme, his back-related hamstring woes are likely to continue.

If Clarke gives the ODI stuff away now, he can confidently build his stamina and gear all his energy towards playing Test cricket. He didn't play the deciding ODI in the CB Series at the Adelaide Oval against Sri Lanka, and he will also miss the one-day series in the West Indies. In a way, I think this was a blessing, for Clarke is a champion, and any nation wants its best to be consistently available to play Test cricket.

T20s and ODIs are okay in that they often bring new audiences to the game and help keep the money rolling in, and we enjoy the contest on the day. However, rarely do we remember much about a limited-overs match unless it's a crack century of the Warner kind (163 v Sri Lanka) or Mark Taylor's magnificent catches at first slip against the West Indians an age ago, which turned the match on its head. Each limited-overs game seems to roll into the other and we forget much of what happened. Not so in a Test match.

Clarke has played 212 ODIs, scoring 6953 runs at an average of 45.74, with seven hundreds and 51 half-centuries. He has taken 53 wickets at 37.84 and 81 catches. An enviable record, and he probably wants to play on, dominating Test and one-day cricket, but logic must prevail here.

If Clarke goes, it is almost certain Tasmania captain George Bailey will take over the reins. Bailey's selection as Australia's T20 captain raised a few eyebrows a few months back, but it is obvious that he has a flair for leadership. And this Australian bunch of selectors - the nucleus of which comprises John Inverarity, Rod Marsh and Andy Bichel - has, according to me, the same common-sense approach and credibility as the three-man selection team of Don Bradman, Neil Harvey and Jack Ryder that held centre stage when I first came into first-class cricket in the late 1960s.

Good judges close to the Australian team have a high regard for Bailey. They consider him an outstanding human being and a terrific captain. He got his chance in two T20s this summer, and while as a batsman he didn't spend a lot of time at the crease, his captaincy has shone.

In the recent Ryobi Cup final in Adelaide, Bailey showed he is made of stern stuff. He scored 101 and was out in the last over. But although Tasmania tied with South Australia, they lost the title because South Australia had the advantage of a home final. How absurd and how unfair. The match should have been replayed.

Shane Watson has done an okay job as leader in Clarke's absence, but he is too important a player right now, with critical roles as an opener or No. 3 batsman, and as a bowler who can take key wickets or stem the flow at the death, to be weighed down by the added responsibility of captaining this young side.

Within a few weeks we'll all know whether Bailey is the man to lead Australia's ODI outfit. I say to our national selectors: do as your most well-regarded Test selection committee of yesteryear would have done were they faced with such a dilemma. Save Clarke for the Tests and give Bailey leadership of the limited-overs squad. He is the man to lead this limited-overs team into the future. And that call should be made right now.

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

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2012, 15:13 GMT

    Just one injury and the vultures are out calling for his head, I dont agree AM did is not objective in his writing i feel its a matter of liking than fact, MC is ok as a captain until he proves himself otherwise

  • Nick on March 15, 2012, 6:19 GMT

    @Simoc - re Bailey: I think he is good but that's it. There is nothing compelling about him, even if he scored a ton in one game you happened to be watching. I saw him bat in the T20s, he scored 12 not out and 3, with a strike rate of 100. That's hardly leading from the front with the bat as you suggest. So I stand by my statement. It is obvious the selectors like his interpersonal skills and attitude because they have been looking for every excuse to pick him for the team. While it is hardly as disastrous a selection as the Pete Forrest saga, I'd like to think he would have scored more runs by the age of 29.

  • Khiladi on March 15, 2012, 4:44 GMT

    I said before not a good guy to handle this job..soon you will make a article telling why he must quit captaincy of all formats lol

  • Chris on March 15, 2012, 3:27 GMT

    I say keep all the best cricketers in Australia out of ODI and 20/20 and keep them for tests. Leave ODI and 20/20 for good domestic players who will never make it at the real stuff. :-) Seriously though, if you were to keep Clarke out of ODI, surely Michael Klinger has as good credentials to lead the ODI team as Bailey....he was actually the winning captain of the domestic ODI team this year, AND one of the top scorers in the competition (including runs when it mattered). Imagine what he could do if he was captain of a decent team !

  • Vaibhav on March 15, 2012, 2:17 GMT

    I flinched after reading the first 2 lines of the article and was amused at the end of it. A man in the form of his life, both in Tests and ODI's should leave one form of cricket (he has already left one form) and focus on just Tests when he is 30? Clarke has been the heir apparent for half a decade now and Australian selectors are smart enough to keep him as captain atleast till the next WC. The selectors showed their smartness in not appointing Warner as captain during the recent CB series because he wasnt ready and they sure wouldnt listen to Ashley Mallet about Clarke's future.

    Coming to George Bailey, he is still to make his ODI debut and is only a year younger than Clarke. Donning a 'Lee Germon' role would hardly be feasible and he has to prove himself as a batsman first before he assumes captaincy. Watson has a few years left in him and he is a decent standby for Clarke. Once Forrest proves himself in a couple of years, he should be groomed as the next captain.

  • Michael on March 15, 2012, 1:37 GMT

    Since when has an unblemished injury record been the primary criteria for being Captain? Clarke got injured during the series, rushed his comeback and now has a longer injury layoff than if he'd rehabilitated properly. The problem was highlighted by the regular VC also being injured at the time, so they had to make Ponting captain for a match. But Clarke hasn't missed (m)any previous matches over the last year or two, so one injury and it's an issue? How about we find a stand-in captain for the odd match he may miss, just like we used to do when Ponting or Waugh were rested for a match - Hussey and Gilchrist had a few matches in charge that way. No need to bring in a specialist captain.

  • Jeff on March 15, 2012, 1:31 GMT

    Ash, you can't, with any certainty, suggest how Bradman, Harvey and Ryder would have acted today. They were faced with an entirely different set of circumstances. They didn't have ODI or T20, and they had a more limited Test exposure for players then. I think it would be foolish to remove Clarke from the ODI fold, given his career performance and experience. One decent limited-overs innings from Bailey - and his apparent skill as a leader - do not qualify him for national selection and captaincy. Bailey's game is far better suited to the first-class format. Regardless, there's no point having a captain who can't consistently perform with technical skills; and that's certainly Bailey's downfall. At the moment, Clarke is the best man to captain our Test and ODI teams. That certainly doesn't mean that we don't start planning for the future though; but let's be smarter about than we have been in the past and identify a few younger candidates and have them learn from Clarke.

  • Daniel on March 15, 2012, 0:31 GMT

    I agree with a lot of the commenters here that Clarke is doing a good job as Captain when fit, and should be retained in that role. Watson has done ok when he's been given the reigns, but you probably don't want him doing it all the time. So long as there is communication between them, the current arrangement will work fine. There seems to be a misconception that this is Clarke's first injury though. It's not. He consistently has trouble with his back and has done so since before he entered the Test team. It has often forced him to leave the field and miss the occasional game in his early career. This situation will continue, so proper thought needs to be given to who is the deputy. We can't have a deputy in training as No. 2. It has to be someone who can do the job right now.

  • Adrian on March 14, 2012, 22:29 GMT

    I have a lot of respect for Ashley Mallet but this article seems to be more about finding a reason to writecopy and discuss rather than analysis. Ponting has explained how hard it willo be to remain fit, in form and focussed now he's not in the 50 over team. Call it training for tests if you will, but Clarke would find it hard to captain tests without playing 50 over cricket. Having him in the ODI side but not captain would be unfare to him and serve no purpose with respect to preventing injury. In short, it makes no sense as it hurts Clarke, the ODI side and the test side.

  • Murty on March 14, 2012, 21:03 GMT

    I agree with AM. Mike is gong to be 31 soon and has only few years left in him. If you plan for long-term solution, Warner should handle the captains role. A captain should always be young as he will have fresh blood to play the game better. Take the case of Ricky Ponting/Saurav Ganguly/Graeme Smith/Hansie Cronje/Kapil Dev/Imran Khan; were young and very successful. I wish Warner for Aus, Virat for India, Chandi for SL should captain. MC might not be 100% fit for the entire WC2015 and hence a early 20's guy would best fit this role. The game has chaned a lot and pace is totally in the hands of young gems. I would handle captaincy if the player is 28+. Aus is just building their team again and would be good to have a young captain.

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