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

Clarke still in Ponting's shadow

30

Every new captain has to deal with the ghosts of his predecessor, but Michael Clarke will have the real-life version in the dressing room. The leadership could be Clarke's for years or it might last the length of the fifth Test, depending on what happens when Ricky Ponting returns from his broken finger.

The temporary nature of Clarke's promotion was highlighted by Ponting at an official function on Saturday when he responded to a speech from Julia Gillard, Australia's prime minister, instead of Clarke. Ponting, who is hanging around to have his injury treated, has also been working as an extra coach by passing on tips to the batsmen in the nets. Yet he has told Clarke to make his own decisions.

"Ricky's made that very clear," Clarke, Australia's 43rd Test captain, said. "Once I take that field they [the decisions] will come from me."

The uncertainty over his tenure, and the troubled state of the team, makes it a difficult assignment for Clarke. A photograph of Clarke and Gillard in Sydney's Sun-Herald today had a caption that said: "One of these people has the toughest job in Australia, the other is the prime minister."

Clarke starts the year with more responsibility, two debutants, concerns over his batting form and a mixed reaction to his appointment. The Ashes have already been retained by England and the hosts' best-case scenario is earning a win that will draw the series. Australia's past four captains have been promoted with the team on top of the world while Clarke's men are taking water at No. 4.

The environment limits what Clarke can do, but he has already made a notable alteration. Usman Khawaja and Michael Beer will receive their baggy greens from past Australian players instead of the captain, which has been Ponting's preferred system. Clarke named the team the day before the game so the debutants could get used to the idea they were playing. Ponting had kept Beer waiting until just before the toss in Perth to tell him of his fate.

Clarke received his baggy green from Shane Warne in Bangalore in 2004. While he was too excited to hear anything Warne said back then, he has since listened closely to all his advice and watched the way he played and led.

"Warney was a very aggressive captain, I don't think I'm that aggressive, but I've learned from him on the field," Clarke said. "He's a friend, first and foremost, but especially when I was a young player, he's been a mentor as well.

"I just hope that come tomorrow, I back myself, back my judgment, back my instinct. That's what people who have helped me have told me throughout my career, as a leader and vice-captain. Hopefully I continue to do that."

He intends to be true to himself whatever happens. "Some people are going to like that, some people aren't," he said. "I'm not that concerned about it. What I'm concerned about is me getting out there and scoring some runs for Australia and helping this team win."

Clarke was relaxed, polite and cautious when he spoke on the eve of the game. He said his first days in charge had been fun, but the serious business of stopping England was about to begin. "There's been a lot of talking about what's happened in the past month and not achieving our goals that we set ourselves in India," he said. "It's a new focus, a new year."

The results have hurt Clarke and the campaign already feels like a defeat, even though it's 2-1 to England. "I've been involved in four Ashes series and lost three of them," he said. "I remember fondly in 2007 when we won the series 5-0. We still have so much to get out of this last Test match. We can't regain the Ashes but we can level the series."

In a quirk of the modern game, Clarke will be captaining his maiden first-class match. When he has played for New South Wales, Clarke has been ordered around by Simon Katich, Brad Haddin or Stuart Clark, while Ponting has been the boss for all off his deputy's 68 Tests. Clarke wants Ponting back and fit as soon as possible, playing until "in 10 years when he retires".

Clarke said he is "very comfortable" with Ponting being in the dressing room. "Ricky being around throughout this Test is a great thing for all the players, but especially for me to have this chance to be captain," he said. "I can run things by him and I think it's pretty important for the team to have him around." Even though Clarke is the leader, it's clear it's not his team yet.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 5wombats on January 3, 2011, 8:56 GMT

    @Aussasinator; agreed - I think it's shocking that Ponting is hanging around the rooms. His influence is hideous - but more fool Clarke if he hasn't got the balls to break free of that mans influence. Clarke is weak - a proxy for the absent Ponting who is evidently captaining the side without even being in the team. Awful.

  • on January 3, 2011, 8:27 GMT

    Ricky Ponting is suffering from great depression caused by the infringement of Saturn over Sun in his chart.The appointment of Michael Clarke as Captain for the 5th Test may see some improvement in the performance of the Australians provided Ponting Keeps himself away from the Dressing Room.

  • gilly007 on January 3, 2011, 6:45 GMT

    Everyone keeps blasting ponting for his captaincy, mainly saying that he hasnt done anything after the Greats left. Please check the stats. Champions trophy 2009. Australia "A" beating india 4-2, beating south africa in their own backyard which the present " No.1 ranked" team is struggling to do. When was the last time any other team won a significant competition outside of T20 ????? So please, untill another country wins the world cup or anything for that matter , ponting is the best captain on the planet. All evidence pointing to it

  • on January 3, 2011, 6:37 GMT

    Ricky Ponting is suffering from great depression caused by the infringement of Saturn over Sun in his chart.The appointment of Michael Clarke as Captain for the 5th Test may see some improvement in the performance of the Australians provided Ponting Keeps himself away from the Dressing Room.

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

    Clarke is bound to do well when the self obsessed Ponting is not around, I've been saying this for a while now. The rebuilding of the team has begun now and it should be in Australia'sinterests if Khwaja and Clarke are allowed continuity, without the negative threat of Ponting's re-entry hanging over their heads.

  • noba on January 3, 2011, 4:50 GMT

    ponting let it all hpn to him...he should've stepped down already or at least tried to get his form back instead of arguing with umpires and taking his frustration out on them...its sad to see the "great player" exiting in such way... his ego getting the best of him!!

  • on January 3, 2011, 2:15 GMT

    Alan Border-Mark Taylor-Steve Waugh-Ricky Ponting- one cannot think even for a second Clark is in that category as batsman or a leader....sorry he looks like another Kim hughes to me :)) remember him

  • Paulk on January 3, 2011, 2:02 GMT

    My guess is Hilditch and co. were not counting on Punter to hang around the dressing room...

  • indianpunter on January 3, 2011, 1:50 GMT

    completely agree with Kcastan. big brother is watching!! it shows ricky ponting's insecurity and his refusal to "let go" that he still feels the need to hang around the dressing room. this is despicable ( in my opinion). Ricky Ponting , to be fair, has something to offer as a batsman, but as a captain he is done and dusted. If he can play under clarke, then yes. otherwise, time to go, Ricky!

  • wibblewibble on January 2, 2011, 23:02 GMT

    @Naren:

    "Clarke is more aggressive than Ponting and he bats better when he is the captain"

    I guess you are inferring this from the total of 0 first class games Clarke has played as captain. +1 insightful

  • 5wombats on January 3, 2011, 8:56 GMT

    @Aussasinator; agreed - I think it's shocking that Ponting is hanging around the rooms. His influence is hideous - but more fool Clarke if he hasn't got the balls to break free of that mans influence. Clarke is weak - a proxy for the absent Ponting who is evidently captaining the side without even being in the team. Awful.

  • on January 3, 2011, 8:27 GMT

    Ricky Ponting is suffering from great depression caused by the infringement of Saturn over Sun in his chart.The appointment of Michael Clarke as Captain for the 5th Test may see some improvement in the performance of the Australians provided Ponting Keeps himself away from the Dressing Room.

  • gilly007 on January 3, 2011, 6:45 GMT

    Everyone keeps blasting ponting for his captaincy, mainly saying that he hasnt done anything after the Greats left. Please check the stats. Champions trophy 2009. Australia "A" beating india 4-2, beating south africa in their own backyard which the present " No.1 ranked" team is struggling to do. When was the last time any other team won a significant competition outside of T20 ????? So please, untill another country wins the world cup or anything for that matter , ponting is the best captain on the planet. All evidence pointing to it

  • on January 3, 2011, 6:37 GMT

    Ricky Ponting is suffering from great depression caused by the infringement of Saturn over Sun in his chart.The appointment of Michael Clarke as Captain for the 5th Test may see some improvement in the performance of the Australians provided Ponting Keeps himself away from the Dressing Room.

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

    Clarke is bound to do well when the self obsessed Ponting is not around, I've been saying this for a while now. The rebuilding of the team has begun now and it should be in Australia'sinterests if Khwaja and Clarke are allowed continuity, without the negative threat of Ponting's re-entry hanging over their heads.

  • noba on January 3, 2011, 4:50 GMT

    ponting let it all hpn to him...he should've stepped down already or at least tried to get his form back instead of arguing with umpires and taking his frustration out on them...its sad to see the "great player" exiting in such way... his ego getting the best of him!!

  • on January 3, 2011, 2:15 GMT

    Alan Border-Mark Taylor-Steve Waugh-Ricky Ponting- one cannot think even for a second Clark is in that category as batsman or a leader....sorry he looks like another Kim hughes to me :)) remember him

  • Paulk on January 3, 2011, 2:02 GMT

    My guess is Hilditch and co. were not counting on Punter to hang around the dressing room...

  • indianpunter on January 3, 2011, 1:50 GMT

    completely agree with Kcastan. big brother is watching!! it shows ricky ponting's insecurity and his refusal to "let go" that he still feels the need to hang around the dressing room. this is despicable ( in my opinion). Ricky Ponting , to be fair, has something to offer as a batsman, but as a captain he is done and dusted. If he can play under clarke, then yes. otherwise, time to go, Ricky!

  • wibblewibble on January 2, 2011, 23:02 GMT

    @Naren:

    "Clarke is more aggressive than Ponting and he bats better when he is the captain"

    I guess you are inferring this from the total of 0 first class games Clarke has played as captain. +1 insightful

  • 5wombats on January 2, 2011, 22:57 GMT

    @KCastan; Hey! Hands off Wombats!!! But y'know - there are some muddle headed folks about the selectors table. Wombats have got a lot more nup' but. Enjoy the match!

  • KCastan on January 2, 2011, 21:45 GMT

    I am glad that I am not the only one who thinks Ponting hanging around the team is more about himself than the team. All this denial around the team. Neilsen thinks he still has much to offer - which is strange as he has not delivered much to date. Captaincy wise Ponting thinks the same - but lets be hones, once Warne and company left he has not shown much in the way of captiancy skills. The selctors - well what a lot of muddle headed wombats they have been. Cricket Australia - more interested in sucking up to BCCI than running Australian cricket for the benefit of Australia.

    And by the way ... on Nielsen ... consider this ... he considers that there is nothing to be gained by allowing out of form players go back to the Shield and play for their states ... and they gave this guy an extensive to his contract - 2013 before we can get rid of him!

  • aracer on January 2, 2011, 21:06 GMT

    What happened the last time there was a captain in waiting hanging around during an Ashes test? Oh, that would have been Vaughan in 06/07!

  • Silloh on January 2, 2011, 20:34 GMT

    Michael Clarke will be in Ponting's shadow only if he wants and choses to be. If I was in his position and given such a golden opportunity I would have surely asked Ponting for any advice, but certainly be THE STRONG AND MOTIVATED LEADER OF THE TEAM for the fifth test and bring the best out of that group. Clarke should know and accept clearly that he has taken over the assets and liabilities of the team and he is responsible for leading the players. He shoiuld have certainly learnt from the past but the biggest mistake would be to be on the field or off the field and looking accross to Ponting for directions. I do not think he will be doing that but if he choses to be in Ponting's shadow , then the selectors should have appointed Ponting despite his broken finger, or someone else, and the message would have been Michael Clarke is not ready for the skipper's role.

  • imja on January 2, 2011, 19:16 GMT

    Last nail on the Aussie cricket team.

  • Viv-Viru on January 2, 2011, 18:00 GMT

    Clarke's attitude is outstanding. He has nothing to lose in giving all due respect to Ponting (which he deserves) and letting him hang around the dressing room. If Australia lose then Ponting will share some blame for "casting his shadow", but if they win Clarke will get most of the credit.

    He has already made two significant changes - in letting past players present baggy greens to the new players, and in naming the team a day before the game. No one can complain about that and he gets more support from past players and the new ones.

    The main goal for Clarke should be to score runs and not be too concerned with captaincy. Everything else follows.

  • 5wombats on January 2, 2011, 17:17 GMT

    "In this, as in everything else, Ponting makes it about him first, the team second." right as ever, @landl47. Jeez - that's not smart having Ponting hanging around looking over your shoulder. Clarke needs to tell him to pack his rods. This is going to very hard for Clarke - @Naren; I think you write in hope more than expectation.

  • dishNub on January 2, 2011, 16:28 GMT

    LOL. We are giving Pointing way too much credit by saying he created a "captaincy shadow". That guy didn't have a clue of captaincy to generate a shadow any wider that his own feet. Clarke will not need to worry about Pointing's (lack of) shadow!!

  • landl47 on January 2, 2011, 14:03 GMT

    If I were Clarke, the last thing I'd want would be Ricky Ponting hanging round the dressing room. That can only lead to mixed messages to the team and muddled thinking from Clarke. It's hard enough to captain a side without having your predecessor giving you 'advice'. In this, as in everything else, Ponting makes it about him first, the team second. Clarke needs to tell him firmly but politely that he'll give him a call if he wants to speak to him. Then lose the phone.

  • on January 2, 2011, 13:54 GMT

    no one can write off clarke or for that matter anyone. this may well be turning point in his career

  • NalinWikkey on January 2, 2011, 12:29 GMT

    Note that the last 3 captains were appointed when Aus was at the top- Ponting, Waugh & Taylor - not 4 - Border came in when the situation was dire - Hughes cried & resigned whilst Clive Lloyd's windies were thumping the Aussies. So the cycle has almost returned after 25 years!

  • on January 2, 2011, 11:57 GMT

    I think Clarke will revel in the captaincy, and may regain some lost spark because of it.

  • Mitchley on January 2, 2011, 9:33 GMT

    I don't think Ponting has captained Clarke in all his tests (as indicated in the article above). I believe Gilchrist was Clarke's captain for his 1st 2 tests (against India in 2004, when Ponting was injured)

  • Biggus on January 2, 2011, 8:51 GMT

    I wish him well but he's not exactly my idea of an ideal Australian captain. Too familiar with hair gel and fabric softener for my liking. Can't imagine what Allan 'Damn the torpedos' Border would make of him. Bring back the moustaches, gold chains and loud shirts of the '70s, that's what I reckon. @D.V.C.-Tee hee. That's a good one. I'll pay that.

  • AKS286 on January 2, 2011, 8:31 GMT

    clarke did't desearve any position in the team but now he is a captain in sydney test. i think adam voges & p.jaques will be definately in the team. voges as captain. wisdon cricketers of the last 5 yrs are:- north,smith,hilfenhaus,katich,clarke,prince(SA).

  • on January 2, 2011, 7:57 GMT

    Ponting should do what Tendulkar did, get rid of captaincy and prolong his career as pure batsman.

  • on January 2, 2011, 7:39 GMT

    He cant do worse than Ponting, so hopefully Aussie selectors give him a fair try

  • Naren on January 2, 2011, 7:28 GMT

    I think Clarke will do well. There is nothing wrong in using a resource like Ricky when available. Still on the field it is going to be Clarke executing the plans. I also would not like Ricky to influence Clarke too much as it defeats the purpose of a new captain. But Ricky can be handy in techniques etc and motivating the youngsters in the team. Clarke is more aggressive than Ponting and he bats better when he is the captain (except when playing T20s). Example the Century in India. I think he would trust and support his spinners better than Ponting did. That is a key to winning in different conditions.

  • D.V.C. on January 2, 2011, 7:25 GMT

    The King is slightly injured and hanging around the dressing room, long live the King! Doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

  • harsoo on January 2, 2011, 7:05 GMT

    Punter's days are over. He should now focus on his batting for whatever time he has left to play international cricket.

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  • harsoo on January 2, 2011, 7:05 GMT

    Punter's days are over. He should now focus on his batting for whatever time he has left to play international cricket.

  • D.V.C. on January 2, 2011, 7:25 GMT

    The King is slightly injured and hanging around the dressing room, long live the King! Doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

  • Naren on January 2, 2011, 7:28 GMT

    I think Clarke will do well. There is nothing wrong in using a resource like Ricky when available. Still on the field it is going to be Clarke executing the plans. I also would not like Ricky to influence Clarke too much as it defeats the purpose of a new captain. But Ricky can be handy in techniques etc and motivating the youngsters in the team. Clarke is more aggressive than Ponting and he bats better when he is the captain (except when playing T20s). Example the Century in India. I think he would trust and support his spinners better than Ponting did. That is a key to winning in different conditions.

  • on January 2, 2011, 7:39 GMT

    He cant do worse than Ponting, so hopefully Aussie selectors give him a fair try

  • on January 2, 2011, 7:57 GMT

    Ponting should do what Tendulkar did, get rid of captaincy and prolong his career as pure batsman.

  • AKS286 on January 2, 2011, 8:31 GMT

    clarke did't desearve any position in the team but now he is a captain in sydney test. i think adam voges & p.jaques will be definately in the team. voges as captain. wisdon cricketers of the last 5 yrs are:- north,smith,hilfenhaus,katich,clarke,prince(SA).

  • Biggus on January 2, 2011, 8:51 GMT

    I wish him well but he's not exactly my idea of an ideal Australian captain. Too familiar with hair gel and fabric softener for my liking. Can't imagine what Allan 'Damn the torpedos' Border would make of him. Bring back the moustaches, gold chains and loud shirts of the '70s, that's what I reckon. @D.V.C.-Tee hee. That's a good one. I'll pay that.

  • Mitchley on January 2, 2011, 9:33 GMT

    I don't think Ponting has captained Clarke in all his tests (as indicated in the article above). I believe Gilchrist was Clarke's captain for his 1st 2 tests (against India in 2004, when Ponting was injured)

  • on January 2, 2011, 11:57 GMT

    I think Clarke will revel in the captaincy, and may regain some lost spark because of it.

  • NalinWikkey on January 2, 2011, 12:29 GMT

    Note that the last 3 captains were appointed when Aus was at the top- Ponting, Waugh & Taylor - not 4 - Border came in when the situation was dire - Hughes cried & resigned whilst Clive Lloyd's windies were thumping the Aussies. So the cycle has almost returned after 25 years!