December 12, 2013

Captains contrasting

Australia's and England's leaders are men cut from different cloth but both likeable, successful, and with mutually uncompromising gifts of patience and bloody-mindedness
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Cook and Clarke: two exceptional men driven to the edge
Cook and Clarke: two exceptional men driven to the edge © Getty Images

de Ninety-nine and counting for Michael Clarke and Alastair Cook, two very different men charged with the same mission. Both begin their 100th Test match with the Ashes at stake. One will remember the occasion fondly, the other will want to forget it.

They are not buddies; indeed they barely know one another other than to shake hands and toss the coin. They are cut from different cloth: one urban, one rural. Yet in the age of trash-talking, the captains have fuelled the fire of the matches at their command by references to broken bones and war. Nor have they disapproved of the coals thrown upon it by their team-mates. This is not their nature, it is a consequence of their responsibility.

It is a long time since an English side arrived in Australia as favourites. Discounting 1978-79 - when Australia were ravaged by the exodus to Kerry Packer and, consequently, Mike Brearley's tourists took full advantage - you may have to go as far back as 1958-59, when Peter May brought a Harlem Globetrotter of a team and got thrashed 4-0. It is worth looking up. Alongside May was a gallery of English cricket - including Cowdrey, Graveney, Dexter, Bailey, Evans, Laker and Lock, Tyson, Trueman and Statham. Richie Benaud's new-age Australians played with an urgency and freshness that England simply could not repel. May finished as bewildered as Cook looks now.

It is an inescapable fact that the wheel of sport spins. Only a month ago, England appeared in control of their destiny, while Australia were deeply uncertain of theirs. During the last English summer there were days and matches when the gulf between the sides had opened so alarmingly in England's favour that one feared for the immediate future of the Ashes. England were 2-0 up after the two Tests and so great was the humiliation at Lord's that many Australian visitors refused to attend much of the third day, never mind the fourth, when the last rites were read.

Had you thrown the clock forward to tomorrow and dealt the tarot cards, no way could they have turned in favour of Clarke. His young face had become old, his smile forced, his body thin, and the hair unrecognisable from the days of a bright debut. Even his brilliance with the bat was made mortal by James Anderson's constant badgering around off stump. Darren Lehmann, the new coach, scrawled notes of disbelief at the awfulness of it all. Now, incredibly, it is Andy Flower who scrawls the notes of disbelief and Cook whose smile is tight-lipped.

Good judges think England might lose this series 5-0. If so, Cook will go one worse than May. It is unthinkable, or at least it was a month ago. The reversal is best exaggerated by Sir Ian Botham's prediction that England would win 5-0. That is some swing. The fear of it tells on Cook's face. In contrast, Clarke appears at ease among his peers, and though generally stern with the media, is savvy enough to know when to lighten up. The pressure on these two cricketers is alarming and the back-to-back series have taken it to the edge.

Australia - that is, the whole country - is alive to the kill. The tension is everywhere: in streets and shops, bars and restaurants; on beaches, at golf clubs, leagues clubs and surf clubs; in taxis, at airports, at check-in, at check-out. And England are feeling it. Familiarity is close to having bred contempt - a sidebar to a ten-match super series that had not been considered.

The captains live these emotions. One reason for the Australian team's obviously aggressive approach to the matches at the Gabba and Adelaide Oval is their suffering over three series at the hands of increasingly smug Englishmen. A nation sick to the pit of its stomach with the English shall have its vengeance. As a rule the English get over losing the Ashes - they became used to it during the drought of 1989-2005 - most Australians do not. Enough is enough in a land still identified by sport. Clarke has to win and the need is driving him like he has never been driven before.

The Australian captain is out of Sydney's Western Suburbs, a blue-collar place with rugby league at its recreational core. His grandfather taught him to bat and remains convinced his grandson is the modern incarnation of Bradman. Clarke made runs and found girlfriends in equal measure. He went down the tattoo road, bought an Aston Martin, some Prada suits, and moved to Bondi. The heartland of Australia could not forgive him the excess. All the while, though, Clarke trained and practised as if possessed. Late nights were rare, early mornings regular. He married a beauty and began to bat like Bradman. Newspapers printed apologies for their previous scolding. When he told a Pommie tailender that they were out to break his arm, the masses roared approval. If the Ashes are returned, all will be forgiven.

These are two exceptional men. They lead their teams as differently as they bat. One is an adventurer, the other a pragmatist. But the idea that Clarke spends his time in nightclubs is ridiculous. His marriage is cosy and dependable. His lifestyle more humdrum than betrayed by the fast car (long gone, incidentally). His close friendship with Shane Warne lives on but is maintained around a cricketing brief.

The cliché says that Ashes cricket defines you. Both Clarke and COok know that the decisions they make over the days that follow will leave their mark. Then, not so far into the future, they will look back and realise that Ashes cricket did not define them at all

The England captain grew up with music. He sang like an angel and played grade-eight clarinet and saxophone. His scholarship to Bedford School was given for these talents but he made a hundred against the school 1st XI as a 14-year-old ringer for the MCC, who arrived one short. Since that day, he has made hundreds on debut as a matter of course. There is a ruthlessness to him that is not immediately apparent. Much of the shock he has suffered these past few days will have come from the realisation that not everyone else in his number is of the same stock. Doubtless he will have sat down and thought this through with Graham Gooch, his friend and mentor. Gooch led a difficult tour to Australia and knows that the collective will is severely tested by distraction and defeat.

Cook devotes his spare time to life on his wife's family farm and spends Friday nights at the pub with the locals. He cares little for impression or bling, just for results. He sets his jaw square, barely notices the swooning female menace around him, and goes about his business. The result is 25 Test match hundreds and a golden first year in the role of captain. Until Brisbane. And then Adelaide.

When the coin hangs in the air tomorrow morning, both men know that fate will ask its questions and take its hand. The cliché says that Ashes cricket defines you. When that coin lands both will know that the decisions they make over the days that follow will leave their mark. Then, not so far into the future, they will look back and realise that Ashes cricket did not define them at all. The game of cricket might have done, for blood and sweat will have been left on fields far and wide, but the great world spins and Ashes battles are but a part of that.

Fifty-one hundreds between them in 198 Test matches. That is some yield. Cook's runs are made with an honesty and dependability; Clarke's with greater freedom and reference to the aesthetics. They share mutually uncompromising gifts of patience and bloody-mindedness, and have played innings that saved the nation while others around them tripped and fell. Last summer in England, Clarke suffered the painful journey of expectation to failure. Now the same journey stares Cook in the face. His greatest achievement will be to avoid it. Only cricket can shift the emphasis so quickly and do so at the feet of so many people. When the coin goes up tomorrow, spare a thought for two of the game's most likeable and most successful men. Men whose own achievement will be the furthest thing from their minds.

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Stevros3 on December 12, 2013, 12:23 GMT

    BOTH are world class batsmen, Cook as a opener is likely to have a slightly lower average (less likely to be not out for one thing and always face the new ball at the start of your innings), but will have a few more innings given these stats it's remarkable how similar they are. I actually think that there's a good chance that whichever of them finishes this test with more test runs overall will be on the winning side, their contributions to their respective sides is that important. You still feel that Australia can be brittle when Clarke doesn't score as you feel him being in good nick gives confidence to those around him. England's fortunes seem tied to their captain now too, it was his runs last series in Australia that crushed the Austalians hopes, and they know if he gets in and scores it could be a match winning one so they will be desperate to get him early especially if England bat first Cook getting runs is the most comforting thing the other England players could want.

  • RJHB on December 14, 2013, 2:25 GMT

    Ah the Indian distortion, you can depend on it like the sun coming up. S. Jagernath, I must bring you to task on a number of points. I agree, opening is tougher than batting in middle order, but the difference at test level is not what it is in lower levels. By your logic, maybe Bradman, Tendulkar and Lara dont deserve to be rated with Ponsford, Gavaskar and Grennidge! Crazy! As for taking the game away from opposition, that's exactly what Clarke does, you guys in India should know this all too well! He scores quickly, he scores big. As for the Newlands "47" game, what did SA get bowled out for again?? 96 all out after in fact losing 9-47 in 11 overs! Then the 47 by Australia. This all happened on Day 2 after half of day 1 had been washed out, so do you reckon the flat non green pitch might just have been freshened up a tad?! FYI Clarke made a brilliant 151 in the first innings. BTW what happened in the Australian summer that followed? Aussie glory, Indian humiliation! Loved it!

  • on December 13, 2013, 16:48 GMT

    I rate Cook higher than Clarke based on the overseas average.. Cook's Overseas average is 53 Clark's Overseas average is 42

  • on December 13, 2013, 4:29 GMT

    @dunger.bob - Yes, its irrelevant but i am a numbers guy and i could not help but wonder at how close the numbers were.

    I agree Cook has to buckle up and come out of the slump, Its far easier for cook to come out of a slump like this than any other batsmen because of his mental strength.

  • thekaz on December 12, 2013, 23:53 GMT

    Both great players and will go down in the history books. Let it be known though that at the end or their respective careers, Clarke will be remembered as a true Australian great along with many others. Cook will be remembered as England's greatest ever batsmen.

  • dunger.bob on December 12, 2013, 23:34 GMT

    @Vinay Parisa :"198 test matches 51 hundreds and around 15820 runs.. Thats what Sachin did in 198 tests.. Incredible." Thanks for that highly irrelevant info.

    What the hell, running with that, I would say that Cook is the only current batsman with any chance whatsoever of doing better than that. .. At 28, he may have another 7-8 years left in him at the outside. Could he possibly put together another 25 Tons in the time he has left? .. Possibly, but he won't be able to afford too many form slumps if he's to be any chance.

  • S.Jagernath on December 12, 2013, 21:43 GMT

    How is 'practically' opening tougher than actually opening?There is no doubt Clarke is a lovely player to watch,I just don't feel his performances can be compared with Cook's.Cook takes games away from the opposition.Look at what he did in the 2010/11 Ashes.I always believe that a middle order batsman's job is a far easier one than an openers (so does many past cricketers & cricketers),especially so when for the first 4/5 years you get to bat behind Langer,Hayden,Ponting,Martyn,Hussey & a lot of other quality batsmen.By the way,the test at Newlands when Australia got bowled out for 47 was never green.I watched every second of that test & the pitch was not green at all.@Will Macintosh.India actually produce very few flat surfaces,they are generally very rough & crumbling which leads to variable pace & bounce with a lot of spin & a bit of seam movement.More like a gravel road!

  • chicko1983 on December 12, 2013, 21:35 GMT

    @S.Jagernath: very selective quoting by yourself there. The full quote is "He married a beauty and began to bat like Bradman". Since Michael Clarke's marriage, he has played 16 tests, 8 at home and 8 away (5 in England, 3 in India). He has averaged a far from miserable 48 away, in England and India, and a massive 98 at home. The 98 at home is very bradman-esque. Over these 16 tests since he was married, he has averaged just over 70 after playing in England, India and Australia. So unless you think England, India and Australia are all the same "flat tracks" then Mr. Nicholas is a bit more correct than you are. Compare Clarke to Pujara, who has played all but two of his 16 tests at home and only averaged 65, then you might realise how great and bradman-esque Clarke has been since May 2012.

  • Fan_of_test_cricket on December 12, 2013, 20:52 GMT

    Take a bow, Mark, for this beautiful article.

  • on December 12, 2013, 18:11 GMT

    198 test matches 51 hundreds and around 15820 runs.. Thats what Sachin did in 198 tests.. Incredible.

    Good luck to Clarke and Cook and this is going to be one helluva cricket match

  • Stevros3 on December 12, 2013, 12:23 GMT

    BOTH are world class batsmen, Cook as a opener is likely to have a slightly lower average (less likely to be not out for one thing and always face the new ball at the start of your innings), but will have a few more innings given these stats it's remarkable how similar they are. I actually think that there's a good chance that whichever of them finishes this test with more test runs overall will be on the winning side, their contributions to their respective sides is that important. You still feel that Australia can be brittle when Clarke doesn't score as you feel him being in good nick gives confidence to those around him. England's fortunes seem tied to their captain now too, it was his runs last series in Australia that crushed the Austalians hopes, and they know if he gets in and scores it could be a match winning one so they will be desperate to get him early especially if England bat first Cook getting runs is the most comforting thing the other England players could want.

  • RJHB on December 14, 2013, 2:25 GMT

    Ah the Indian distortion, you can depend on it like the sun coming up. S. Jagernath, I must bring you to task on a number of points. I agree, opening is tougher than batting in middle order, but the difference at test level is not what it is in lower levels. By your logic, maybe Bradman, Tendulkar and Lara dont deserve to be rated with Ponsford, Gavaskar and Grennidge! Crazy! As for taking the game away from opposition, that's exactly what Clarke does, you guys in India should know this all too well! He scores quickly, he scores big. As for the Newlands "47" game, what did SA get bowled out for again?? 96 all out after in fact losing 9-47 in 11 overs! Then the 47 by Australia. This all happened on Day 2 after half of day 1 had been washed out, so do you reckon the flat non green pitch might just have been freshened up a tad?! FYI Clarke made a brilliant 151 in the first innings. BTW what happened in the Australian summer that followed? Aussie glory, Indian humiliation! Loved it!

  • on December 13, 2013, 16:48 GMT

    I rate Cook higher than Clarke based on the overseas average.. Cook's Overseas average is 53 Clark's Overseas average is 42

  • on December 13, 2013, 4:29 GMT

    @dunger.bob - Yes, its irrelevant but i am a numbers guy and i could not help but wonder at how close the numbers were.

    I agree Cook has to buckle up and come out of the slump, Its far easier for cook to come out of a slump like this than any other batsmen because of his mental strength.

  • thekaz on December 12, 2013, 23:53 GMT

    Both great players and will go down in the history books. Let it be known though that at the end or their respective careers, Clarke will be remembered as a true Australian great along with many others. Cook will be remembered as England's greatest ever batsmen.

  • dunger.bob on December 12, 2013, 23:34 GMT

    @Vinay Parisa :"198 test matches 51 hundreds and around 15820 runs.. Thats what Sachin did in 198 tests.. Incredible." Thanks for that highly irrelevant info.

    What the hell, running with that, I would say that Cook is the only current batsman with any chance whatsoever of doing better than that. .. At 28, he may have another 7-8 years left in him at the outside. Could he possibly put together another 25 Tons in the time he has left? .. Possibly, but he won't be able to afford too many form slumps if he's to be any chance.

  • S.Jagernath on December 12, 2013, 21:43 GMT

    How is 'practically' opening tougher than actually opening?There is no doubt Clarke is a lovely player to watch,I just don't feel his performances can be compared with Cook's.Cook takes games away from the opposition.Look at what he did in the 2010/11 Ashes.I always believe that a middle order batsman's job is a far easier one than an openers (so does many past cricketers & cricketers),especially so when for the first 4/5 years you get to bat behind Langer,Hayden,Ponting,Martyn,Hussey & a lot of other quality batsmen.By the way,the test at Newlands when Australia got bowled out for 47 was never green.I watched every second of that test & the pitch was not green at all.@Will Macintosh.India actually produce very few flat surfaces,they are generally very rough & crumbling which leads to variable pace & bounce with a lot of spin & a bit of seam movement.More like a gravel road!

  • chicko1983 on December 12, 2013, 21:35 GMT

    @S.Jagernath: very selective quoting by yourself there. The full quote is "He married a beauty and began to bat like Bradman". Since Michael Clarke's marriage, he has played 16 tests, 8 at home and 8 away (5 in England, 3 in India). He has averaged a far from miserable 48 away, in England and India, and a massive 98 at home. The 98 at home is very bradman-esque. Over these 16 tests since he was married, he has averaged just over 70 after playing in England, India and Australia. So unless you think England, India and Australia are all the same "flat tracks" then Mr. Nicholas is a bit more correct than you are. Compare Clarke to Pujara, who has played all but two of his 16 tests at home and only averaged 65, then you might realise how great and bradman-esque Clarke has been since May 2012.

  • Fan_of_test_cricket on December 12, 2013, 20:52 GMT

    Take a bow, Mark, for this beautiful article.

  • on December 12, 2013, 18:11 GMT

    198 test matches 51 hundreds and around 15820 runs.. Thats what Sachin did in 198 tests.. Incredible.

    Good luck to Clarke and Cook and this is going to be one helluva cricket match

  • prv_hc on December 12, 2013, 17:08 GMT

    The picture tells you everything.Cook is looking at the urn,Clark is posing for the camera.

  • milepost on December 12, 2013, 16:04 GMT

    Does anyone really believe that England can win here? I don't.

  • Nutcutlet on December 12, 2013, 14:49 GMT

    I enjoyed the contrast that Mark Nicholas has presented here. The differing personailites of the captains is always a fascinating sideline of major Test series. Both Cook & Clarke would be in most experts' current world XI & there's no doubt that their style of captaincy is as different as their batting. At his best, Clarke is polished & classical, deftly using his feet to spinners. There's a positivity about his batting & his crisp signalling to his fielders. More obviously than Cook, he 'owns' the field. Cook is altogether more subtle, in a lower key, foot movement no more than necessary & usually firm-based. Like his batting, he's mostly understated, tough, engaged in internal debate, or exchanging a few quiet words with Prior, perhaps. Clarke probably signs his name with flourish; Cook's signature would, I imagine, be upright & precise. Minimalist. Both enjoy the confidence of their men for sure. From history, this might be a good toss to lose, but Cook, I sense, wants first use.

  • on December 12, 2013, 14:23 GMT

    "Good judges think England might lose this series 5-0". Are these the same judges that thought England would win in November?

  • chitti_cricket on December 12, 2013, 13:27 GMT

    Mark what a beautiful writer you are, I would never miss your writings or your comments on the match sir. Ha, the way you put about these two guys is simply wonderful. They purely bring joy to onlookers right..!. That is the nature of this game once a hero the other time an anti-hero. All said and done the will,hunger, planning everything is right there Mark, but simply say this England team lacks the skill mate. The basic thing that backs all the said above. Every sports team will have a one time hero in them like Pele, Maridona Sir Viv Richard Sir Broadman so on in them who make a difference to their oppositions. Here now we can all emphatically say Mr.Johnson, yes emphatically say him, take him off of Australia and man to man both teams are equal right..! that is exactly what we saw last Ashes. Johnson's revelations this Ashes are the difference mate. Rest all is just cricket. He is at the peak of his form and with that he will be the difference between two sides this season mate

  • RohanLaghate on December 12, 2013, 12:15 GMT

    Very well articulated thoughts Mr. Nicholas. Your articles always give a very interesting insight into the psyche of the cricketers. It allows us to know what all things keep running inside the mind of the cricketers - as ststed in one of your previous essays - just brings out a new personality. Looking forward to good knocks from both the captains.

  • ScottStevo on December 12, 2013, 11:46 GMT

    @S.Jagernath, Clarke avg 52 / Cook avg 47. You're right, they're incomparable.One guy has a career average that places him among the greats, the other has an average that places his among the goods...regardless of where they scored their runs.

  • on December 12, 2013, 11:38 GMT

    great thoughts Nicholas...well crafted

  • Green_and_Gold on December 12, 2013, 11:27 GMT

    @S.Jagernath - Actually its quite easy to compare both batsman esp as they are both approaching their 100th test. Only a handful of runs and innings separates them in the stats. Overall - both batsman are approaching 8000 test runs. Yes their rolls are different however how can you that Clarke has it easier - have you not seen Australia bat over the last 3 years. Scorelines of 3/nothing have been quite common so he has had to come in an rescue the innings - that is not easy. Unlike you i wont rubbish Cook - opening is tough and he is a class player - they are both class.

  • on December 12, 2013, 11:27 GMT

    Speaking of happy 100th Test occasions or sad ones, from my era.

    Gower, made 13 & 2, as West Indies continued to thrash England in 1988. It also marked Robin Smith's debut.

    Greenidge made a 100 in 1990.

    Gooch made it in India 1992/93 during that disastrous tour, also there was an issue about whether he was on 98 or 99 FC 100s.

    Stewart made a 100 in 2000, on the QM's 100th birthday, remember the applause at Old Trafford.

  • MAK123 on December 12, 2013, 11:27 GMT

    "...spare a thought for two of the game's most likeable and most successful men." - Clarke? I am not so sure but for his batting skills. Cook? yes, everything about him is likeable.

  • B.C.G on December 12, 2013, 11:22 GMT

    Cook's 100s in India will never be matched by Clarke so there.

  • on December 12, 2013, 11:10 GMT

    @S.Jagernath on (December 12, 2013, 9:16 GMT) might pay to check some facts before making a bias claim like you have, you don't recall the recent India series where Clarke practically was opening & coming in on square turning wickets where he made 130 & 90? or the 151 he made against a fiery Steyn on a green pitch in Cape Town? there's been many innings on turning or seaming pitches, I as an Australian can acknowledge Cook is a good batsman so how about you do the same? it's probably not the time to be talking Cook up over Clarke either, when Cook has hardly scored a run this series & if he can't do it on "Flat Tracks" then that's probably not a great sign champ...

  • on December 12, 2013, 10:57 GMT

    @s.jagernath opening is no easy feat.. Hell of a lot easier than walking out when it's 2 down for not many however... Something Clarke has had to do many times when the bowlers had their tails up

  • on December 12, 2013, 10:54 GMT

    Clarke has a better footwork against spinners & is a complete player both in ODI & test matches. Cook is a typical test player, his innings reflect his musical upbringing. Statistically not much to chose between them, almost equal no. of centuries & half centuries, Clark's average is understandably higher due to few not outs. Fate is with clarke, in the last 2 years has scored >2600 runs at an avg of 75 as compare to cook's 2000 at an avg of around 40.

  • on December 12, 2013, 10:52 GMT

    @S. Jagernath - very magnanimous of you. One might also point out that Clarke averages 5 runs more per innings, has a SR 10 runs higher than Cook, and that an away average of 43 is far from `miserable`. As for `began to bat like Bradman` - I would suggest that 4 double hundreds in a calendar year (including a triple) is as close to fitting the bill as you are likely to find. Take nothing away from Alastair Cook, who has been a wonderful batsman for many years, but a little perspective and some respect might not go astray.

  • PrasPunter on December 12, 2013, 10:52 GMT

    @Jagernath, turn the clock back to that match when Aus got bundled for 47 !! Clarke scored a brilliant 151 out of a total of 284 in innings #1 !! And when the entire team was sinking in india, he did well with a century in chennai. A few centuries in Eng in 2009 and one in 2013. Scored one against NZ in NZ in 2010. So it is not fair to say that he is a flat-track bully. His batting must be put in perspective, given that he battles a chronic back problem as well.

  • CodandChips on December 12, 2013, 10:33 GMT

    Both a great batsmen with fabulous records. Good luck.

    Cook seems like an honest guy and a hard worker. He seems to bat better abroad than at home imo. Appears a better leader off the field than on it. Inherited a successful but wilting team and did well to lead them to that historic victory in India. Ashame he's suffering just like all English captains with lack of runs.

    Clarke is a fantastic batsman who is leading a team on the rise. Maybe he should bat higher in the order, but he is leading the team well at the moment.

  • TheCricketEmpireStrikesBack on December 12, 2013, 10:33 GMT

    Mark is at his magnanimous and insightful best here. Whenever an antidote to the harping and pettiness that pervades much of the cricket media is needed, I know where to turn.

    As long as it ( hopefully) does not embitter them, when Clarke and Cook do have a chance to look back, they may discover that cricket and the Ashes have uncovered parts of their character they did not know existed.

  • on December 12, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    Captain Cook. A man of bravery and integrity.

  • on December 12, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    not this series thus far. stop living on past form. current form is terrible

  • FreddyForPrimeMinister on December 12, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    Another wonderfully written piece, Mark. Thanks. May the toss be kind to England, though I fear for them eve if they win it and bat first: the nightmares of Brisbane and Adelaide may be quickly exposed on the quicker pitch at Perth! Good luck, Cooky - if anyone can overcome the mountain, it's him...

  • macZZZ on December 12, 2013, 10:17 GMT

    Posted by S.Jagernath ... ... ... Such a petty and small minded contribution. Of course you're entitled to your opinion, as is the author, Mark Nicholas. I don't always agree with him, but I do find his oeuvre entertaining and usually informative. But of course I'm biased! I've been an admirer of MJ Clarke since he was a teenager.

  • lthornte on December 12, 2013, 10:12 GMT

    I suppose Australia is renowned for it's batting friendly pitches, yes he plays better in his home, but considering the variety of pitches throughout the country you wouldn't say he's a flat track bully

  • DRS_Flawed_NeedsImprovement on December 12, 2013, 10:11 GMT

    cook is a one directional, single minded, defensive batsman. Clarke is a dynamic, attacking, MULTI FORMAT batsman. Clarke is way ahead of cook.

  • Bonehead_maz on December 12, 2013, 10:11 GMT

    Glad that unlike in 1958/9 our pace dominance doesn't rely on 3 foot of drag and suspect actions. 57 runs difference in 99 Test match output. These two have a lot of similarities as well as differences.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge-Needs-A-Hug on December 12, 2013, 10:03 GMT

    Cook's challenge is to try not to lose by more than 300 runs.

  • MCC_Tie on December 12, 2013, 10:01 GMT

    Superb piece, thank you Mark.

  • PutMarshyOn on December 12, 2013, 9:54 GMT

    @S.Jagernath. Mr Nicholas is prone to hyperbole, I don't suppose for a minute he really thinks Clarke bats like Bradman. Your point about MC's away average is fair, although he has had success overseas - his first tour of India, the 2009 Ashes series. Your point about Clarke batting at easier times is not so well made. He has had to carry the weakest Aust batting side since the mid 80's on numerous occasions. They are both fine players - enjoy them both.

  • on December 12, 2013, 9:53 GMT

    Wow, I could not disagree more with S. Jagernath's comment. Debut 150 in India; 150 in South Africa in a losing test; highest Australian average last Ashes tour in England. The 329* v India at the SCG is one of the best innings I have ever seen. Clarke is an attacking batsman who on many occasions has come in at 2 or 3 for not many and performed superbly. Cook and Clarke can absolutely be compared, because they are two fantastic batsmen. For me, Clarke pips it because of his more aggressive batting style. And you clearly have no knowledge of Australian pitches - we don't produce the roads like they do in India.

  • S.Jagernath on December 12, 2013, 9:16 GMT

    'Began to bat like Bradman'?

    I don't think so!

    He has miserable away average,a home average that is over 20 runs higher that than away.Bears striking resemblance to Mahela Jayawardene's stats.Clarke is just a flat track bully!

    Cook as a batsman caanot be compared with Clarke,Clarke bats at far easier times,Cook opens.

    Cook has huge amounts of runs all over the world,match winning & even series winning runs.

  • S.Jagernath on December 12, 2013, 9:16 GMT

    'Began to bat like Bradman'?

    I don't think so!

    He has miserable away average,a home average that is over 20 runs higher that than away.Bears striking resemblance to Mahela Jayawardene's stats.Clarke is just a flat track bully!

    Cook as a batsman caanot be compared with Clarke,Clarke bats at far easier times,Cook opens.

    Cook has huge amounts of runs all over the world,match winning & even series winning runs.

  • on December 12, 2013, 9:53 GMT

    Wow, I could not disagree more with S. Jagernath's comment. Debut 150 in India; 150 in South Africa in a losing test; highest Australian average last Ashes tour in England. The 329* v India at the SCG is one of the best innings I have ever seen. Clarke is an attacking batsman who on many occasions has come in at 2 or 3 for not many and performed superbly. Cook and Clarke can absolutely be compared, because they are two fantastic batsmen. For me, Clarke pips it because of his more aggressive batting style. And you clearly have no knowledge of Australian pitches - we don't produce the roads like they do in India.

  • PutMarshyOn on December 12, 2013, 9:54 GMT

    @S.Jagernath. Mr Nicholas is prone to hyperbole, I don't suppose for a minute he really thinks Clarke bats like Bradman. Your point about MC's away average is fair, although he has had success overseas - his first tour of India, the 2009 Ashes series. Your point about Clarke batting at easier times is not so well made. He has had to carry the weakest Aust batting side since the mid 80's on numerous occasions. They are both fine players - enjoy them both.

  • MCC_Tie on December 12, 2013, 10:01 GMT

    Superb piece, thank you Mark.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge-Needs-A-Hug on December 12, 2013, 10:03 GMT

    Cook's challenge is to try not to lose by more than 300 runs.

  • Bonehead_maz on December 12, 2013, 10:11 GMT

    Glad that unlike in 1958/9 our pace dominance doesn't rely on 3 foot of drag and suspect actions. 57 runs difference in 99 Test match output. These two have a lot of similarities as well as differences.

  • DRS_Flawed_NeedsImprovement on December 12, 2013, 10:11 GMT

    cook is a one directional, single minded, defensive batsman. Clarke is a dynamic, attacking, MULTI FORMAT batsman. Clarke is way ahead of cook.

  • lthornte on December 12, 2013, 10:12 GMT

    I suppose Australia is renowned for it's batting friendly pitches, yes he plays better in his home, but considering the variety of pitches throughout the country you wouldn't say he's a flat track bully

  • macZZZ on December 12, 2013, 10:17 GMT

    Posted by S.Jagernath ... ... ... Such a petty and small minded contribution. Of course you're entitled to your opinion, as is the author, Mark Nicholas. I don't always agree with him, but I do find his oeuvre entertaining and usually informative. But of course I'm biased! I've been an admirer of MJ Clarke since he was a teenager.

  • FreddyForPrimeMinister on December 12, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    Another wonderfully written piece, Mark. Thanks. May the toss be kind to England, though I fear for them eve if they win it and bat first: the nightmares of Brisbane and Adelaide may be quickly exposed on the quicker pitch at Perth! Good luck, Cooky - if anyone can overcome the mountain, it's him...