Top-order Clarke eyes big runs
Michael Clarke insists his promotion to No. 4 makes no difference to his game despite the added responsibility of moving one step closer to the top of the order. Clarke has spent most of his career at No. 5, but having been Australia's best middle-order player over the past 12 months, he has shifted up a spot at the request of the captain Ricky Ponting.
Clarke's previous stint at No. 4 was short and unsuccessful; after the 2005 Ashes he was handed the role when Damien Martyn was dropped, but he lasted only three Tests for scores of 39, 5, 5, 14 not out and 5. Then came Clarke's own axing from the side, and when he returned to the team six months later, he was reinstalled down the order.
"Ricky came and grabbed Michael Hussey and myself at training the morning of the Derby game and told us what was happening," Clarke said ahead of the Leeds Test. "For me it hasn't fazed me. When I was younger I cared more about the position I batted. After getting dropped from the Australian team, for me it was always just about being the team, it doesn't matter where I bat."
Before the series Ponting said the change, which involved Hussey moving to No. 5, was about getting one of his most in-form batsmen in as early as possible. Clarke's highest Test score is the 168 he collected in Hobart against Pakistan in January and he is hopeful that batting higher in the list he will have the opportunity to bat for longer periods.
"You probably get in a little bit earlier against the newer ball and if you make a big score, you can probably make a really big one, knowing you've got at least one more batter behind you," Clarke said. "But my role doesn't really change, you play the same way. Conditions dictate how much fast bowling you face compared to how much spin you face. I haven't changed my game at all because I'm batting No. 4."
Clarke has reasonably good memories of Headingley after scoring 93 there last year during Australia's innings victory over England and the Australians will head to the venue in fine spirits this time after beating Pakistan at Lord's. The Pakistan side will have a new captain, Salman Butt, after the surprise retirement of Shahid Afridi, and Clarke said he would be missed.
"Losing your captain would be quite a change, but in saying that he hasn't played that much Test cricket over the last five years anyway," Clarke said. "Afridi has been a wonderful player for Pakistan. He's played a lot of cricket, especially one-day cricket and has a lot of experience, and I think he'll be missed in the Test cricket as well."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo