Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney December 30, 2010

Clarke focussed on delivering results


Michael Clarke is prepared for even more criticism in his latest role, but he knows captaining Australia is about achieving good results rather than winning the popular vote. Clarke, who takes over from the injured Ricky Ponting for the SCG Test, is an easy target for critics who snipe about his A-list lifestyle and accuse him of being soft.

The off-field matters are not a cricket concern, but everything has been magnified since he has moved to No.4 and entered a worrying form slump. "Everybody's entitled to their own opinion," Clarke said after becoming Australia's 43rd Test captain. "It's great to see the board and Cricket Australia continue to support me and give me this opportunity. For me it's about doing whatever I can to help this team win this Test match and level this Ashes series."

While he polls poorly in tabloid newspaper surveys, Clarke is a hugely marketable figure among higher demographics for his style and sporting ability. "It's part and parcel of what we do now as a professional cricketer," he said. "You spend a lot of time in the media, so for me I've copped criticism throughout my whole career, and it's no different now."

Clarke, 29, was anointed for Test captaincy before he had played a first-class game, but the last six months have been particularly rocky for someone who was preordained as a leader. He has managed only 322 runs at 21.46 in eight Tests after shifting from No.5.

With the associated waves of criticism, his failures made it seem like he subconsciously didn't want the job he had been groomed for. This week there is no choice. It is Clarke or nobody. Everyone has to get used to the idea that a boy from Sydney's western suburbs, who now lives across from Bondi Beach, is holding the second-most treasured job in Australia. Clarke has captained the country in 36 limited-overs matches and Ponting said he had already been "a great leader".

There have been regular gripes, in public discussions and private whispers, about Clarke's high-flying activities and speculation about his influence on young team-mates. He and Simon Katich had a dressing-room fight early in 2009 and older players such as Matthew Hayden, who is on the Cricket Australia board which approved the nomination, have highlighted his Generation Y behaviour. All but two of the men he will lead at the SCG will be in their 20s. He is the captain of the future.

Ponting said there was no issue about Clarke being popular among the squad and believed he was capable of handling the extra pressure. "All this dressing-room stuff that's been in the media and in the papers hasn't ever been around our rooms at all," Ponting said. "Everyone he's played with, and who will play under him this week, he'll have their total support."

Like Ponting, Clarke has been struggling for runs in this series, and he has been told he must first concentrate on his own game before worrying about the direction of the team. "When it's your turn to get out there and do the job with the bat or to do whatever you need to as captain, you pay full attention to that," Ponting said. "It's nothing new for Michael. He's been there and done that and he'll enjoy the week."

Clarke has been Ponting's deputy since the West Indies tour of 2008 and while the 36-year-old will be on hand to offer advice in Sydney, he won't be telling his replacement what to do. "Michael and I have worked together very closely for a number of years now, so he's going to do things his way and that's the way I want him to do it," Ponting said. Both players hope Clarke's elevation is temporary.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 31, 2010, 15:07 GMT

    Greg chappel coach and MC Captain. Ok Folks i can predict the future of Aus Cricket. All the best for ranked no ?(predict) in all formats.

  • Sally on December 31, 2010, 11:12 GMT

    Good Luck Pup! hope he gets out of this form slump soon so people can concentrate on his cricketing ability and not the lifestyle he leads away from cricket

  • Dummy4 on December 31, 2010, 10:51 GMT

    Whether or not Captain Clarke is the Kim Hughes of 2011 is moot as long as no Border has put his hand up. The questions are if, in spite of the doubts, there's an Edward VII or Churchill in Clarke and if not, who and where the H the other chap is.

  • Anver on December 31, 2010, 5:12 GMT

    Wrong man at the wrong time !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Sajid on December 31, 2010, 3:25 GMT

    Michael Clarke has never put a foot wrong as far as his onfield behaviour goes, which shows discipline and restraint, self control shows intelligence, and intelligence is something you want in a captain. Ricky Ponting on the other hand overdid the alcohol and got his lights punched out in a red light district, not something you want in a captain, and surprise surprise, he lead the team and carried on on the field with the same lack of discipline. There is a cult of stupidity in this country, where intelligence and self restraint are as undervalued as the "virtues" of "toughness" and aggression are overvalued. Clarke will be a good captain, but there will be some who blame poor results on him, and not the team, while those same people will blame poor results on the team when it is a captain they approve of.

  • Ramakrishnan on December 31, 2010, 1:46 GMT

    @ Nerk.. I agree with what you state reg. Michael Clarke. Somehow or other, he does not seem to really fit in for the role for the Australian captaincy. In the current series so far, what we could all see from him was numerous attempts to drive at deliveries pitched way outside off stump without really getting into the right position to play such shots and those which he could successfully connect, rightly got the edge of the bat and flew into the hands of the english fielders. The England players' task will be that much easier when they bowl to Phil Hughes and Michael Clarke. Its really going to be tough for Clarke himself when he comes to bat in the Sydney test shouldering the burden of leading the side in the absence of Ricky Ponting.

  • Bryan on December 31, 2010, 1:15 GMT

    @Cric_purist ....if being a "very good batsman" is being better than me, then he is simply outstanding, but I'm rubbish and he's only "average" as a test batsman (average = 46.97). Cameron White? Only 4 tests at an average of 29.20 (first class = 42.01). Jeez, Aussies, you must be scraping the barrel. Will you need to lose a series to Zimbabwe - oh, you can't - or Bangladesh before you realise how much trouble you are in? Frankly, Bangladesh looks a lot more promising. Aussie is going to have a tough time staying in the top 4.

  • Chris on December 31, 2010, 1:03 GMT

    Even England in the 90s didn't pick captains who deserved to be dropped from the team (you have to go back to Brearley for that, but Clarke isn't a Brearley).

  • Simon on December 31, 2010, 0:49 GMT

    I was never really much of a Clarke fan. I found him too much of a soap opera star, a pretty boy, to be a future test captain. But then came the dreaded series against Sth Africa in Australia. In that series Clarke batted with maturity, with patience and discipline and skill. I thought then and there, this boy has grown up, finally. But now he has gone back to where he was before that series. In the Ashes he got himself out, playing stupid shots. That drive in Adelaide... dear God what was he doing? Maybe he needs a bit of droppage to get back to that talent he showed in that Sth African series. Katich should be the man for the job, at least until other, younger players such as White and Bailey get test experience.

  • Dummy4 on December 31, 2010, 0:44 GMT

    Michael Clarke was talked about as a future test captain before he had played a first class game because he was the captain of the successful Under 19 team in whatever year, where he led Shane Watson and Nathan Hauritz to victory in the World Cup that year (when Shane Watson was the player of the tournament). All 3 were spoken about as future Australian stars and Michael Clarke as a future Australian captain. Similarly, Ricky Ponting was suggested as a future Australian captain before he had played a single first class game, based in his case on great Under 16 form (Tendulkar-like, actually).

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