Michael Clarke believes Peter Forrest's excellent one-day form will boost his chances of winning a place in Australia's Test squad for the tour of the West Indies. Forrest scored a composed century, his first for Australia, in Friday's loss to Sri Lanka in Hobart and it carried on his outstanding entry to international cricket after making his debut earlier in this series.
Forrest has scores of 66, 16, 52 and 104 in his four one-day internationals and his tally of 238 is the biggest total any Australian has compiled in the first four ODIs of his career. Even more impressive was the fact that Forrest scored his century at No.3, shrugging off the pressure that came with replacing Ricky Ponting in the position he had filled for nearly all of his 375-match career.
Ponting will be part of the Test squad on the West Indies tour but there will be one spot available for a back-up batsman after Shaun Marsh's horrendous series against India. Usman Khawaja would have seemed the logical man for the role a few weeks ago but Forrest's strong performances have now made him the front-runner, especially considering he averages 58.10 in the Sheffield Shield this summer and has made three centuries.
"I think it certainly helps, no doubt," Clarke said of Forrest's one-day form. "The key is to make runs or take wickets in whatever form of the game you're playing. Playing one-day cricket for Australia means he can't play first-class cricket at the moment for Queensland, so he just needs to keep making runs and knocking on that door, make the selectors select him. That's his goal, to keep scoring runs and keep throwing his name up there, that's all he can do."
Clarke said deciding who should replace Ponting at No.3 hadn't been easy, and he had considered taking the role himself. But he felt Forrest deserved the opportunity to build an innings, and he certainly didn't let his captain down in his first game in the position.
"I thought long and hard about it," Clarke said. "I thought what was best for the team. At the end of the day the decision to bat Pete at No.3 was about what I thought was best for the team. I could have batted myself there, Michael Hussey there, a couple of the senior players, but I thought it was a really good opportunity for him on a very good batting wicket. I'm really pleased he made the most of it."
Clarke spent plenty of time at the crease with Forrest on Friday during a 154-run partnership that rescued Australia from a precarious opening. As he has throughout the series, Forrest showed that his style involves getting himself in, picking the gaps and finding boundaries along the ground, respecting the good balls and taking as few major risks as possible.
As a result his hundred wasn't quick - it was the third-slowest triple-figure ODI score by an Australian in the past 15 years - but it was no less impressive for that fact. His style should make him an attractive proposition for the selectors when they choose the Test squad, and Clarke said Forrest was comfortable with his game and could have a very bright future ahead of him.
"I'm sure he gets nervous like all of us," Clarke said. "But he knows his game quite well. That's what Pete does do and at the moment he has the confidence to play his way, which has allowed him to walk straight into the Australian team and perform. He's in good form. As we all know, you've got to make the most of that, and he's certainly doing that.
"It's the start of his career and there's a long way to go, but he's got a lot of potential. He's got a lot of talent. He plays spin and fast bowling well. He works hard, trains hard, and he's got everything you need to become a very good international cricketer. He's just got to keep taking it one game at a time and keep making the most of his opportunities. If he keeps batting the way he batted today, he's in for a very bright future."
Forrest also caught the eye of Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lanka captain and one of the best batsmen of the past decade and a half. Jayawardene said he was impressed by the way Forrest rebuilt Australia's innings after they stumbled to 2 for 27, and while Sri Lanka ended up winning the match, Forrest had made their task difficult.
"I think he batted really well," Jayawardene said. "Up against us he had a couple of good knocks but today I think was something special. It was tough up front when they lost the two wickets, the ball wasn't coming on. I thought our guys were bowling really well but he was very patient, building that partnership with Michael. He carried through that middle period which was great to see. He's got a lot of potential. I'm quite impressed with him."
Edited by Siddarth Ravindran