The Ashes 2013-14 November 8, 2013

Warne critical of Clarke's off-field role


Australia's captain Michael Clarke must improve as a leader off the field and redouble his efforts to create a happier team environment during the forthcoming Ashes series, Shane Warne has said. In a significant departure from usually glowing support of his "best friend", Warne has conceded the national team lapsed into an insular mode that recalled the doomed England teams of the 1990s under Clarke's leadership, before improving later in the previous Ashes encounter.

Warne made his critique of Clarke in a column for the Telegraph that also suggested England's captain Alastair Cook should be replaced by Kevin Pietersen or Graeme Swann if the tourists are to seriously challenge for the position of undisputed world No. 1. The floating of such a concept was not surprising considering Warne's earlier attack on Cook in an interview with English media, but his words about Clarke were more telling.

Clarke and Warne have had a close relationship ever since the younger man's early days in the Australian Test team. Always Clarke's strongest defender, Warne has very seldom offered any criticism of a cricketer he has mentored, most recently attacking Ricky Ponting for his quite balanced and detailed observations of Clarke in his autobiography. So his admission that Clarke must be more focused on the welfare of his team is notable.

"Clarke has Cook covered on tactics but where he must improve is in creating a happier team environment," Warne wrote. "The Australian team were noticeably happier at the end of the English summer and, as Clarke and Lehmann's partnership started to take hold, Australia played better. If we look back over the years to when England lost eight Ashes series in a row there were a lot of people in their side playing for themselves and their own positions. It was a selfish environment. This is what Clarke has to avoid at all costs.

"If you look at the last three Tests in the Ashes, and the recent one-day series in India, there were a lot more Australian players smiling and in form. It looks a happier team than during the ICC Champions Trophy in June and the first couple of Test matches in England but the work has to continue. To me Australia have to improve in more areas than England if they are to regain the Ashes. But if England want to be the best Test side in the world, then Cook has to be more aggressive and proactive."

While he pushed the point about Cook's lack of tactical flair and aggression, Warne said that he had been more critical of Clarke in private conversations between the pair than anything he had previously said publicly. He also offered the view that Australia's results over the years had reflected the standard of the captains who commanded the teams.

"This week I have been critical of Cook as a captain, maybe a bit harshly, as he has a great record," Warne wrote. "For your information, I am not paid by Cricket Australia and have no official role with them. Sure, Clarke is one of my best friends but ask him and he will tell you I am one of his harshest critics. I honestly believe that Cook has to improve tactically if England are to become the No. 1 team in the world again and I do not think too many people would disagree with me.

"I am also speaking from the experience of playing under some great captains - and some who were not so great. If you look at the leaders Australia had when we did well and when we struggled, it generally reflected the standard of the captains. If I had to choose a captain out of the England side it would be Kevin Pietersen or Graeme Swann. That may sound like an unbelievable thing to say after all the controversy of last year but I think KP has the best cricket brain in the team.

"Graeme Swann is good too, as we have seen from his Twenty20 captaincy of England. They are both imaginative, good readers of the game and take the aggressive option first, whereas Cook retreats too quickly. He goes very defensive when he should be stamping his authority on the match."

Warne has often said that Allan Border and Mark Taylor were the best two captains he played under, while being far more critical of Ponting and Steve Waugh. Border's record was poor for many years as the national team regenerated under his guidance, before Taylor took over and lifted the team to No. 1 in the world. Waugh and Ponting carried on the era of success, and both finished with better overall records than either Border or Taylor.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • itsme250 on November 9, 2013, 22:33 GMT

    We all love to be critical of warnie, he gives us so much ammunition! But putting aside his comments on Cook, I think he is correct in his summary of recent Aussie captains. Border was my childhood hero but it took him a long time to be agood captain. He was a reluctant leader of a weak team constantly placed against the greatest side of all time (the Windies of the early 80's). But he was a firm and loyal leader of men. If you fought for AB he would fight for you. Taylor was anatural leader off and on the field, tactically astute and prepared to lose in the pursuit of victory. These two buikt the platform of the aussie teams for the next 10 yrs. Waugh brought the modern notion of blitzkrieg batting to cricket but was a very cautious captain and ground the oppsition down rather than outthinking them. Ponting had to captain the start of the decline and whislt he was a good off field leader he was never a brave or imaginative on field captain.

  • dummy4fb on November 9, 2013, 20:52 GMT

    Shane Warne, while a great cricketer, is a simple man. To him, a great captain is an aggressive one that tries to dominate the opposition at every turn. This is fine if you have a team of such brilliant cricketers such as the 1995-2005 Australian ones - but then you should win whatever opposition you face or how you go about it. The trick is to win when you don't have the batsmen and bowlers to blow the opposition out of the water, something Cook is excellent at. To judge by Australian opinion, Australia had the better batsmen and bowlers last summer, yet Cook and England won 3 - 0, comfortably, and dear old Warney does not understand why.

  • the_silent_observer on November 9, 2013, 15:17 GMT

    "Waugh and Ponting carried on the era of success, and both finished with better overall records than either Border or Taylor" - Daniel has summed it up nicely, though he should have added (maybe, as an after-thought!) "or Warne would ever have had!" Notwithstanding Warne's genius with bowling and occasional exploits as a die-hard batsman, he could not have been a good captain, let alone a great one! Chinks in his armour, on every plank, had been just too many. Even his success in the inaugural IPL was not sustained in the next 3 seasons, leading one to believe that it was more due to the 'unknown factor' present in any first-time event (like India's 2007 T20WC). One only wishes that his brilliance of the on-field performance in preserved, by just keeping quiet, instead of offering comments that lack consistency!

  • The_Wolvarun on November 9, 2013, 4:53 GMT

    Yes, Warne makes a very good point as Cook captaincy has been predominately defensive, but what Warne fails to understand is that he has played for AUSTRALIA under AUSTRALIAN captains; it is in their style to be aggressive. Whereas from an english perspective, they have never been the side that Australia was and it is in the english nature to be defence...

  • CricketChat on November 9, 2013, 2:24 GMT

    Warne knows a thing or two about keeping himself in the limelight long after his days in the spotlight were over. He shouldn't be spilling beans on his former colleagues. This might come to haunt him later on.

  • SugarFoot on November 9, 2013, 0:38 GMT

    @popcorn - Shane Warne's autobiography has been in circulation for many years. You might want to check facts before unleashing a comical rant. You are asking for him to reveal his "Murkier Side" - that's silly. Only housewives care about the gossip - we are here for the cricket, the community and respected opinions from one of the finest cricketers of ALL time.

  • gop_cricket on November 8, 2013, 23:56 GMT

    Shane's opinion does not hold any good. He may be a great cricket of past but he has completely misjudged Cook.Cook is truly thinking cricketer and a good leader, he is the one who lead England to victory in India, where many great cricketers failed in recent past. He has truly a great team at his disposal who can raise to the situations on cricket field. Remember Shane you are me or to that matter anybody in this world are not best judges of sports men or any man. It is their record and stats that speak of them. How can you say a person who as good a record as Cook is tactically a nonsense captain. That shows your arrogance and immaturity. You are a great cricketer but not a great captain and cricket Australia never opted you as captain coz they know you would have never made a better captain. They were better judges at your time. Sorry to say all this though I'm a great fan of you. I loved your every ball when you were on duty but you went utterly wrong in your judgements mate.

  • dummy4fb on November 8, 2013, 23:27 GMT

    Yep I can see eng changing to be like clarke Tale of the tape clarke - played 29 won 12 lost 10 drawn 7 Series won 4, series drawn 2 series lost 3 Cook - played 16 won 9 drawn 6 lost 1 Series won 4 drawn 1 lost 0

    Do try harder warnie

  • dummy4fb on November 8, 2013, 21:16 GMT

    At the MCG yesterday to watch NSW vs Victoria (Best $5.00 that I have spent in my life).

    With NSW leading by over 100-runs in the 1st Innings there was bearly a whisper or clap coming from NSW in the field. There was more noise coming from one bloke in the stands than the entire NSW Team.

    You have to wonder what inspiration would be needed to lift the voices of the NSW Team when you have the Australian Captain on the field?? Looking back, they were a lot more vocal in the Ryobi Cup without Clarke on the field??

    Maybe they sought some internal solace after some uninspiring field placements saw a few balls fly through an less than aggressive slips area which bought a few jeers from the crowd.

  • Chad950 on November 8, 2013, 20:39 GMT

    The subtext from Warne is that he thinks he would have been sooo much more of a better captain than anyone else.

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