England v Australia, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 4th day July 21, 2013

Desolate Clarke points finger at batsmen


If there was optimism in Michael Clarke's voice after Trent Bridge, it had turned to utter desolation at Lord's. On the receiving end of Australia's sixth consecutive Test defeat, a sequence last experienced in the grim days of 1984, Clarke was clearly upset by a hiding that has all but ended the team's hopes of regaining the Ashes in England.

Speaking frankly of the team's myriad batting problems and the pressure that has placed on the bowlers, Clarke also conceded the defeats were taking a heavy toll on him, and said his own vision of what the Australian team should be had been shaken by a succession of losses that is now the equal of the run that ended Kim Hughes' captaincy when repeatedly humbled by the West Indies.

"Every team I've been a part of that's lost - it's obviously been extremely tough and you probably take it more personally when you're captain of the team as well," Clarke said. "Our performance with the bat in the first innings was unacceptable. The wicket was very good for batting, we had a great opportunity and we let ourselves down.

"The reason you play any sport is to try and win - that's the way I have been brought up. But half of my problem I guess is that I walked into such a great Australian team that won as a habit and that was something I became accustomed to and used to. I don't want that to change. At the moment we are not performing as well as I would like. We are letting everyone down at the moment with the way we are batting. Our bowlers are fighting hard, we are making them bowl every single day because we are not putting enough runs on the board."

Clarke tackled the matter of Australia's batting and the terminal lack of application and patience that has repeatedly hindered the team's efforts to build match-shaping scores. In seven Test matches since January only two hundreds have been made by Australian batsmen - Matthew Wade against Sri Lanka in Sydney and Clarke himself in Chennai.

"We've got plenty of experience in our top seven, we've seen already in this series that guys can score runs against this attack," Clarke said. "Our shot selection was poor and we just didn't have the discipline that England had. England were willing to bat for long periods and graft through the tough times - and we certainly weren't in that first innings."

"I don't want anybody in our team to not play their natural game and not back their natural instinct. You have to do that 100 per cent. But like it or not, when you're playing against good opposition there are going to be tough times in your innings as a batsman and you've got to find a way to get through that. In my career, the way I've tried to get through those periods is with my defence."

Causes for Australia's lack of consistent run-scoring have been debated for some time and Clarke has commented strongly by his own choice of career path, shelving international Twenty20 duty to better prepare for Test matches and ODIs, while also skipping several domestic T20 tournaments in order to preserve his fragile back.

"I think you learn that defence at the age of 10," Clarke said. "Obviously there are three different formats we now play and there's times through your career in T20 cricket, or one-day cricket where you make a 50 off 25 balls or a hundred off 50 balls, that's a great innings. But I know in Test cricket, some of the best innings I've ever seen in my career are guys making a hundred off 350 balls. So there's a time and a place.

"I love all three forms. My reason to retire from T20 was to focus on ODI and Test cricket. I felt my game had to improve in certain areas to stay in the team. I try to use the time that I'm not playing T20 to improve my game. Everyone is in a different boat and different age and stage of life. I can't make decisions for other people. There is room for all three formats in the game but you must be a very good player to perform at all three formats."

The player who has best met the demands of all three formats of the game is the now retired Michael Hussey. It cannot be a coincidence that over the past 12 months Australia are yet to win an international match overseas without him.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • H on July 23, 2013, 10:07 GMT

    @thebrotherswaugh I'm reminded of something Nasser says every time England's batsmen start a series poorly (which has happened a lot recently). He reckons the team management's message is: "You got us in this mess, you get us out of it".

    Think the Aussies have to do the same with their batsmen. Stick with the side they have, maybe try a couple of options at Hove but it should pretty much be the same side. Watson needs to adjust his technique to counter this lbw issue and the game at Hove is a great time to try something like that. Rogers could probably do with a big score just to settle his nerves so he should play. Khawaja and Hughes likewise, while I'd rest Clarke. He looked good at Lord's and got out to a brain-fade. Not like his hundred at Worcs made any difference; will a hundred at Hove?

    Smith at 5, Wade at 6 (Haddin's been poor with the gloves). Faulkner, Agar, Starc, Bird and Lyon. Chance to look at two spinners and a 5-1-5 split, but mostly to get Bird and Lyon ready for OT.

  • Neil on July 23, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    its tough for Austrailia as they are suffering a loss of confidence. I don;t think you can under estimate this point. All odf the Aus top 5 are good batsmen (Clarek world class), but combine thier current lack of form & confidence with playing overseas against a very good bowling side and things are difficult. Its as Clarke says, they have to find a way to get through the tough times. Grind it out and if they see out 6 maidens, so be it. I still dont see them winning a test , but perhaps they can force a draw by batting for 5 sessions?

  • John on July 23, 2013, 1:25 GMT

    @dizzay - Clarke is a very good tactical captain. He's as good as any other captain in Test cricket at the moment. He may not be the greatest leader, but you can't fault his batting efforts over the last 3 years - not unless you want to lose any semblance of credibility. He can only lead in a manner that and style that befits his personality. He would also look something of a 'toothless tiger' if he started trying to be more hard-nosed, uncompromising, and intimidating. He simply hasn't got the cattle to back it up. @Moppa - Very astute comments. Clarke is a wonderful batsman who has carried the OZ batting line-up for the past 2-1/2 years, along with Hussey. There are no easy fixes at the moment. We simply don't have any batting depth. Now that they've picked Khawaja, they MUST stick with him for the final 3 tests. As for the other batsmen, who have we got to replace them. Everybody was lauding the selection of Rogers, solid County background & experience, but he's struggled as well.

  • H on July 22, 2013, 23:13 GMT

    @Cyril_Knight I still maintain Hughes' main issue is temperament. He showed that up at Trent Bridge where he played a much more composed and disciplined innings and let Agar play the aggressive shots.

    And he's a great example of my point. They bring him in for a few Tests, drop him, bring him back for a few, drop him. Then they keep changing his batting position.

    That said, I didn't mean there isn't a lack of talent. There is, at least in terms of the depth of options. It's very un-Australian; I remember the days when their second XI batsmen were probably a good match for most sides in the world. There's a paucity of options to choose from now, and that's why they have to identify the players the management think have "it" and stick with them. They'll either sink or swim. But it's not like there's a stack of players vying for places.

    Voges is nigh-on 34 (First Class average of 40). Katich is nigh-on 38, while Ponting and Hussey are both over 38. That's just delaying the inevitable.

  • Cyril on July 22, 2013, 21:03 GMT

    @H_Z_O This problem of selection is what England faced until 2005. It takes a strong set of selectors and a coach and captain willing to take the on the responsibility of sticking with failing players, in a losing side. CA have shown very recently with the sacking of Arthur that they will not take on this burden.

    But you say there is not a problem with lack of talent. Really? Not one of those Australian players (except a fully fit Clarke for Bairstow) would get in the England XI. So there is a problem with talent. But are these players even the best available?

    Australia are sticking with some players, like Hughes, who frankly is one of the worst batsmen ever to play for Australia, certainly the worst since 1989.

  • H on July 22, 2013, 19:31 GMT

    The problem isn't T20 cricket. It isn't a lack of talent. It's not coaches or captains.

    The problem is continuity of selection. A lot of people bring up the fact Agar is the 13th spinner Australia have tried since Warne retired. But what about the opening partnership?

    Watson and Rogers is the 11th different opening pair since Langer's retirement.

    That's not 11 times they've changed openers (they've done it more). That's 11 pairs of batsmen who have been tried as openers since the Langer-Hayden axis ended.

    Cook and Root is England's 6th pair in the same period. Two of those were during a series Strauss was rested from. Strauss and Vaughan retired in that time.

    Ian Bell's form coming into this series was awful. But the England selectors kept on picking him because they backed him, and look how that turned out.

    Australia need to decide their best 11 and stick with it. Take any defeats that come as the cost of doing business. Find a "core" and build around it. But be patient.

  • Jo on July 22, 2013, 19:14 GMT

    Cool down folks... one match at a time... Look like every one had mandatory 1:1 with team management during the match. So, they had to finish as quickly as possible to be on time for the meeting. Only way to do is donate their wickets. Joe Root is a decent spinner, many folks are good at getting out on his delivery... Probably, the management should have daily pre-match motivational session, in order for the batsmen to feel their presence and value of their wicket. Clarke himself behaving childish... and treat their folks with his ego. You can see that in the 2nd innings of eng. No tooth in blowing setup ( i do not find fault with bowlers), in the way the fielding placements were... so naive... what ever...from test #3, there will be near empty stands... leading to many other important events in the local community, lets hope for a bounce back to show some grit in the next one... still 3 more suprises to go... Joe Root's contribution is solid, but not a surprise, as he is capable of..

  • srinivasa on July 22, 2013, 17:51 GMT

    Mikey, Its just a bad period for Australia. Englishmen suffered the same in the early and mid decade of 2000. Still I believe your team is a great team. Peter Siddle is doing well, Agar is doing well, Pattinson is doing well in the bowling department. The problem is in batting department. Shane watson is not showing the capability of how good a test batsman he is, Phil Hughes got many chances, but he lacks technique, you yourself is a great batsman, haddin is a good batsman, Rogers is showing maturity. Its only a matter of time. Don't give wickets to Swann. Get as much practice as possible with spinners. That is how you people can improve your batting against spin. The collapse is happening against spin. Best of luck.

  • vishnu on July 22, 2013, 17:17 GMT

    Aussies need to realize that now they are no longer a team capable of consistently performing well abroad.Their batting line up looks like an Indian batting line up of the nineties with only one truly world class player capable of scoring runs in all conditions and the rest bits and pieces batsmen who may score at home but rarely away.But what India did well was to give chances to young batsmen like Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Sehwag and develop them into match winners.What the Aussies could to do is to give their new batsmen like Hughes,Smith,Khawaja,Wade,Cowan etc. time to perform and build the team up slowly rather than expecting way too much from a mediocre team that they are now.Even without a decent spinner their bowling line up looks fine, batting will improve once you reduce the burden of over-expectation from their shoulders and being patient with them-they have the required talent but lacks temperament which will come with time and experience.

  • Veeraraaghavan on July 22, 2013, 16:59 GMT

    I think Australia should get Cowan at the top of the order. He has a good defensive technique. Have Hughes at number 3 and Clarke himself at number 4. Watson at number 5 and Steve Smith at number 6. Despite Khawaja's half century I don't see him succeed against Swann or for that matter even a part time spinner. I also believe Nathan Lyon should come in place of Agar because you need an experienced spinner against England. If you are picking Agar for his batting skills to play him at number 8 or 9 you have a problem.Granted he played a great innings at Trent Bridge but you want your specialists to do the job for you not part timers. Lehmann and Clarke need to change their strategies if Australia is to restore some balance in this series.