Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney January 2, 2011

Clarke needs runs to be long-term leader - Strauss

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Andrew Strauss believes that his new opposite number, Michael Clarke, has the tactical acumen to cope with the challenge of captaining Australia in the fifth Test in Sydney, but warns that he'll find it hard to lead from the front in the long term unless he regains the batting form that has deserted him since the tour of New Zealand in March.

Strauss knows from personal experience how invigorating the captaincy can be for a batsman - his average when leading the side in 31 Tests rises to 46.60, compared to an overall mark of 43.02. But Clarke has inherited the role with his form in the doldrums. He has made 148 runs at 21.14 in the series to date, and has made just one hundred in his last 35 innings in all international cricket - although that unbeaten 111 at Visakhapatnam did come while captaining the one-day side in Ricky Ponting's absence in India back in October.

"It's a lot tougher," admitted Strauss. "You have the double whammy of the side not playing well and if you're not playing well either, there's almost not enough time of the day to think about why you're not playing well and pick yourself up. But it's always temporary. If you're a good player, personal form is not going to desert you for too long. And you usually come out of the other side."

With Ponting ruled out of the Test with a broken finger, Clarke is set to become Australia's 43rd Test captain, despite having never previously led a team in first-class cricket. Strauss, however, who cut his teeth as Middlesex's skipper long before he was handed the England job, said it was not a necessary pre-requisite.

"Captaining in a Test is very different to captaining a first-class game," he said. "Clarke has long been earmarked as a captain, and by all accounts, tactically he is pretty good. As I found though, you have to learn on the job and you have to learn reasonably quickly. People sink or swim. It is like your Test debut. People either stand up and deliver or it becomes difficult. Clarke has delivered plenty of times with the bat so he is in a position to do well."

From Strauss's point of view, it makes no difference who lines up alongside him for the toss on Monday morning. "It is a big day for Clarke coming in and captaining a Test match but from our point of view we know the formula that has worked for us and it is important to adopt that again, and maybe, make any slight changes that we need to for the Sydney wicket. We won't worry too much about what is happening in their camp. There is an opportunity for them to play with a bit more freedom, so we have to be on our game."

There are sure to be nerves aplenty in the Australian dressing-room, with two Test debutants lining up for Clarke's first match in charge. But despite the confidence in the England camp at present, Strauss insisted that they would play their opponents on merit - particularly the left-arm spinner, Michael Beer, who is set to become Australia's 10th slow bowler in Test cricket since Shane Warne's retirement on this ground in January 2007.

"We will play the situation and if there is an opportunity to be positive I would like our batsmen to take that," said Strauss. "If he is bowling well and there is turn for him we have to be respectful. Generally it is important that you don't play the man but play the ball coming down at you. It will be just the same for Beer and any of their seamers."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Meety on January 4, 2011, 8:06 GMT

    Don't really care what Strauss has to say about Clarke as a captain. All batsmen have extended periods of poor form - Clarke's is about 9 Tests now, which is getting close to facing the axe. I honestly beleived this was the summer where he would take back the mantle as Oz's premier batsmen - didn't happen, I'm very dissappointed. Form aside, I have no qualms about Pup being captain of Oz. I think Pup would be a great Test captain. I h ave been impressed with his captaincy in ODIs & T20s. Funnily enough there is conjecture about his place in the T20 squad as a batsmen as well - but his captaincy record is close to the best in the world.

  • Campbell on January 3, 2011, 5:36 GMT

    Clarke needs to be dropped. How long are we going to persist with batsmen and bowlers who aren't performing.

  • dummy4fb on January 3, 2011, 5:25 GMT

    Get some genuine opener with Katich. Remove Hughes. Also get more variety in fast bowling and get back hauritz. Also Get watson at 6. So my lineup would be Katich, ????, Khawaja/ White / Clarke (Two out of three), Ponting, Watson, Haddin, steady Johnson, Siddle, Hauritz, ????. This would be a more balanced side with a genuine fast bowner and steady openor fitted in.

  • crikey on January 2, 2011, 22:33 GMT

    Clarke has a higher batting average than strauss.

  • Beefy_B on January 2, 2011, 19:33 GMT

    Wouldn't suprise me at all if Clarke made a hundred in this game, he's certainly due one. Wether or not that will be enough to help the Aussies to a win with their poor form and debutants is another thing. I like Strauss a lot. Very diplomatic, not arrogant but with just a hint of pressure building with his comments.

  • nadimguruz on January 2, 2011, 16:51 GMT

    Clarke must bat at no. 5.No Smith,not even Beer. please,bring someone who is a genuine batsman.You have to make a stable team.

  • Nerk on January 2, 2011, 12:23 GMT

    To make your captaining debut in front of your home crowd, your batting in trouble, what a situation for Clarke to make a hundred, win the test and save some Aussie pride. The stage is set, the script is written, all Clarke has to do is act it out without fluffing his lines!

  • Vindaliew on January 2, 2011, 11:35 GMT

    It what makes me like Strauss so much - his comments genuinely mean well, and had none of the psychological warfare which an opposing captain like Graeme Smith or even Ponting himself might want to wage in order to unsettle the opposing captain. It's like he's really looking forward to Clarke settling in well and fast due to respect for a fellow captain. Top bloke.

  • diss on January 2, 2011, 8:54 GMT

    "It is like your Test debut." Jeez I hope so! Test debuts bring out the best in Clarke. Look I just hope they make more runs than Michael Beer alone is going to be caned for.

  • spencer100 on January 2, 2011, 8:53 GMT

    Bring on Haddin. The guy's in form. There are times you need to start from the foundations again, and this is one of them

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