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Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney

Clarke focussed on delivering results

Peter English

December 30, 2010

Comments: 26 | Text size: A | A

Michael Clarke will captain Australia during the fifth Ashes Test at the SCG, Sydney, December 30, 2010
Australia's 43rd Test captain takes over amid much turmoil © Getty Images
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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

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Posted by   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.

Posted by Spongeychocs 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

Posted by   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.

Posted by anver777 on (December 31, 2010, 5:12 GMT)

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

Posted by angry_nanny 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.

Posted by rohanbala 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.

Posted by Vroomfondel 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.

Posted by aracer 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).

Posted by Nerk 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.

Posted by   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).

Posted by Agni2 on (December 30, 2010, 23:45 GMT)

Too bad for cricket but we may be in for a prolonged period of a weak Australia. Jeez, is this the best Aus can do?? A new captain who is struggling for runs. One opener who is technically weak, another who is completely predictable. A toothless bowling attack that depends on Johnson's fragile mental state. A spinner who averages 40 in first class and they don't dare play in test matches. I think it will be a long time before Aus is anywhere close to worldbeaters again.

Posted by boom1000 on (December 30, 2010, 23:03 GMT)

Congrats to Clarke. I am sure he will score at Sydney he was waiting for this opportunity. And there will be less of sledging and arguments with the umpires.

Posted by Doogius on (December 30, 2010, 22:43 GMT)

Sutherland has to go. Under his leadership, Australia are overscheduled, overplayed and the 'annoited one' has turned out to be a dud. Clarke has done nothing to deserve being captain. He's a dead match bully and a live match failure. He's apparently only interested in a caretaker role, but still turned up for his photo op. Speaks volumes. I just can't help but think if this what we are pinning our hopes on, then Oz cricket is well and truly down the toilet at the moment...

Posted by insightfulcricketer on (December 30, 2010, 22:04 GMT)

A strong Aussie cricket team is a must for international cricket.

I think a simple moving of Shane Watson down to No.5/6 and putting authentic opening batsmen in opening slot will balance this Aussie team. I think Shane being an opener upsets the Australian team balance. Openers are not asked to be consistent 50-60 guy but when set you are asking 120-150+ from him . Watson just does not have the temperament and concentration levels for that - I think it was blunder keeping him as an opener for so long.Do that in Sydney and everything will sooner or later fall in place. Imagine stress levels for a captain at prospect of Hussey,Watson ,Haddin,Johnson it would also free up the openers to do their own thing.

Posted by Youie on (December 30, 2010, 21:32 GMT)

hey kool_indian:

Thre's been a bit of poetic licence used when they talk about anointing a captain for Australia before his first first-class game. Let me explain. it's a bit of a 'wise after the event comment'.

I played against the Waugh brothers at high school in Sydney. It was Canley Vale High vs East Hills (the Waugh brothers' school). For the week or two leading up to the game, we were told to watch out for the waugh brothers, 'they'll play for Australia one day'. When we played them, it was obvious, they were such stand out talents for Under 16 year olds, that it was obvious they would play for Australia and the rest is history. Now, if they hadn't, I wouldn't have remembered them or the comments, but because they did, it looks like they were 'pre ordained'. So, don't worry. These comments are made about a lot of youngsters. There is nothing dodgy going on.

Posted by Sealrose on (December 30, 2010, 21:13 GMT)

I cannot believe it. But I suppose it should not come as a huge suprise. How is it possible for the ACB to select a player to captain Australia who really should not even be in the team? I mean Clarke or Pup (what a pathetic nickname) cant even get his own game going he's totally at sixes and sevens with it all. Is the another agenda involved?

Posted by manish79 on (December 30, 2010, 21:05 GMT)

I don't think Clarke has the capability of reviving Australian team. He himself is not doing good as a player moreover he is not dependable. I guess CA just made the decision in a haste.

Posted by kool_Indian on (December 30, 2010, 19:50 GMT)

Guys - does anybody know if Michael Clarke's parents are influential in Cricket Australia or Australia in general? How come he was anointed for Test captaincy before he had even played a single first-class game??? Doesn't anyone find this little fishy? For me - I am just curious on how he was deemed to be the right person for 2nd most coveted posn in Aus - anyone has any idea???

Posted by Something_Witty on (December 30, 2010, 18:19 GMT)

Also, focused only has one "s" I believe.

Posted by Something_Witty on (December 30, 2010, 18:10 GMT)

From what I've seen of Pup as a captain in T20 and ODI, I would compare him to Mark Taylor as a tactician and someone who will always make sure the game is moving along. Whether he has the loyalty and respect of the players remains to be seen. Best of luck Puppy, hope you make some runs out there. <3

Posted by abverb on (December 30, 2010, 17:47 GMT)

Michael Clarke is a wounded cricketer. Might want to prove a point. Heard of Wounded tiger or a wounded lion fighting back.... Not sure what a wounded Puppy will do !!!!

Posted by Rolling_in_The_Deep on (December 30, 2010, 17:35 GMT)

Micheal Clarke is in the mould of Ricky Ponting. He is a very good batsman but his captaincy skills are doubtful. May be Players like Simon Katich or Cameron White have the potential to be a good captain. CA should not ruin Micheal Clarke's form by making him a captain.

Posted by ash_abi on (December 30, 2010, 17:30 GMT)

I dont think it is a good ideato put someone who is low on confidence & form to captain oz............ it may backfire predominantly or may be he may derive some inspiration from captaincy............... but honestly i feel he is unfit to be even in assam state ranji trophy team

Posted by CricDepot on (December 30, 2010, 16:49 GMT)

They have been nurturing him for years for this position, NOW is the time for him to step up and deliver. You have to lead from front and for that he has to find form from the word go before all the critics jump on him. Good luck Mr. Clarke!

Posted by landl47 on (December 30, 2010, 16:47 GMT)

He hasn't appeared to have any great skills as a leader on the occasions I have seen him captain the one-day side, so it will be interesting to see how he gets on at test level. Over the 40+ years I have watched cricket, I've seen only a handful of people I would call great captains- Benaud, Worrell, Imran Khan and Brearley stand out, with a few others right behind them- but there have been a lot of bad ones. Clarke can't do much in the short time he has to prepare, but he needs to present the appearance of knowing what he wants to achieve. A feature of the Australia team this series has been that it has appeared to drift when the England batsmen get established; Ponting never seems to have a plan, in contrast to Strauss. An example would be the last test, when Johnson, the destroyer of Perth, had bowled only 3 overs by the time England had passed the Australian total. If Clarke can inject more energy into the side he will have done all that can be expected of him.

Posted by Dr.K.H.Iyer on (December 30, 2010, 16:32 GMT)

The fact that CA hasn't said if this is temporary or permanent tells a lot about the mood of the nation! Let's wait and watch!!

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