England in Australia 2010-11 January 29, 2011

Clarke desperate to end form slump

Michael Clarke, Australia's out-of-form captain, remains so determined to end his form struggle that he asked to play for his club side in Sydney today. The request was rejected by Australia's selectors and coaching staff, who wanted him with the national team to prepare for Sunday's fifth ODI, but it showed how desperate he is to spend quality time in the middle.

The summer has been difficult for Clarke, who has failed to make his mark in the Tests or one-day affairs. He also retired from Twenty20 internationals to focus on the longer forms but that tactic hasn't worked yet either.

When Clarke saw his club team Western Suburbs was due to bat today, he suggested a change of itinerary to the team management. "I was keen to go back to Sydney and have a hit there but [the selectors and coaches] thought it was better preparation for me to be here with the team, which I agree with," he said. "Any opportunity I get to play cricket now I'll be grabbing with both hands."

He scored only 193 runs in the Ashes and has managed 70 in the first four ODIs against England. It is a worrying sequence but those around Clarke are confident he will regain his touch before the World Cup starts next month.

"I'm definitely sick of talking about it and a lot of people are sick of reading about it," he said of his run drought. "I've said before the facts are there. My performances haven't been anywhere near as good as they need to be throughout this summer.

"I've felt like at times I've been hitting the ball pretty well but I haven't been able to go on and, not just get a big score or a hundred, but even get a 50 or a 70. I'm looking for answers and for me the only way to find those answers is to train my backside off."

While Clarke is struggling with the bat, he has been making astute decisions, including bowling the offspinner David Hussey in the final overs of Wednesday's contest in Adelaide. Australia can wrap up the seven-match series two games early if they win at the Gabba on Sunday.

Clarke visited a couple of schools on Friday that were affected by the damaging Brisbane floods a fortnight ago. While he didn't get any batting advice, he was given a special request.

"A lot of the kids said, 'please win, please win on Sunday'," he said. "The least we can do is give our all and continue to play our best cricket. I'm confident that if we do that we'll get a result which will not only be great for us and this series, but hopefully put a few smiles on a few kids' faces as well."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of ESPNcricinfo