Australia in West Indies 2012 April 5, 2012

Clarke alert to collapso dangers


Seductive as it may be in these parts, it can take as little as an hour to tumble towards Test match defeat.

Australian visits to the Caribbean are littered with matches in which the visitors' cause was ruined in a day, or less. Allan Border's 1991 tourists rumbled West Indies for 149 to begin the pivotal fourth Test in Bridgetown, then watched aghast as they in turn were routed for 134, handing the match and the series to Viv Richards' ageing team.

Four years later and Australia's otherwise triumphant 2-1 win was sullied by a second innings capitulation for 105 on the most poisonous of Port of Spain pitches. Then in 1999 Steve Waugh's first series as captain was punctuated by two unfathomable turnarounds in Kingston and Bridgetown, as a previously dormant home side sprang to Brian Lara-inspired life.

The latest captain to lead Australia to the region, Michael Clarke, is well aware of these lessons of history, via the memories of older heads including Ricky Ponting (a tourist in 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2008) the bowling coach Craig McDermott (1991 and briefly in 1995) and Justin Langer (1995, 1999 and 2003).

As he prepared to command his side against a West Indies team that has shown plentiful signs of rejuvenation under the captain/coach axis of Darren Sammy and Ottis Gibson, Clarke emphasised the importance of every hour, every session and every day over the next three weeks. He does not want his men to be lulled, even momentarily, into the often lackadaisical rhythms of Caribbean life.

"The most important thing I think about touring the West Indies is one bad hour can cost you a Test match," Clarke said. "You need to be at your best for all five days to have any chance of winning the Test. Against a very talented opposition, you can't afford to give good players too many chances, and too many opportunities in the game to run away with it.

"That's going to be our main focus to make sure we are switched on throughout the whole five days, starting Saturday, and we believe that'll put us in a good position to win the Test series. Building consistency is our goal as a team and I said throughout the summer we played some really good cricket in patches, and some cricket against New Zealand and South Africa that we'd rather forget. So as a team we're trying to become a little more consistent, and this is going to be a tough test for us but will give a good indication of where we're at with the consistency."

The West Indian team has always had Clarke's respect for its level of ability and athleticism. What he is now about to discover is whether or not Sammy and Gibson have added enough steel and unity to make that talent and athleticism work cohesively for five days. Sammy said the team had built up its character over the past year, and he was eager to put it to the test.

"It's not only me. The coach has a goal for the team," Sammy said. "The fact we can go out on the field and look like a unit and have that never-say-die attitude, as you saw in the one-day series we've been under 100 for 5 a few games and still posted over 200 - that's been the most important thing. The coach has stressed professionalism and you can see the team is improving.

"For me as captain to get the guys to gel well, play together and go out there and execute the team plan because the more we think team the more results we will get. I've played since 2004 and I always try to get along with everybody. It's just my character but it's not just me. The guys have made a conscious effort to fight for the West Indies, I won't take credit for that.

"It's just everybody making a conscious effort. We know what the fans expect. Even though we lose but if we lose fighting ... in the transition period we have not won for a long time and everybody's just making that effort to go out there and represent the region well."

To that end, Sammy implored his batsmen to produce enough runs for an increasingly accomplished bowling attack to defend. Darren Bravo and Kirk Edwards are two young men facing Australia for the first time in Tests, but their captain's expectations are clear.

"Our batting has to play very crucial role in this series," Sammy said. "The last Test match we played, in India, we scored over 500 runs. The batting has shown that they are capable of scoring runs, but it's very important that the top six get the bulk of the runs - Kirk, Bravo, Shiv [Chanderpaul] and the two young openers. Last year Kirk got a hundred, Bravo got three. We do hope that come Saturday he digs in and finds a way to score, but it's going to take a team effort to pile on the runs against the Aussies."

Otherwise it may be the hosts feeling the sting of one disastrous hour.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • j on April 7, 2012, 13:12 GMT

    Having had England serve India up on a plate for them a short time ago, this notoriously weak Australian side continues to slide towards rock bottom.

  • John on April 7, 2012, 13:11 GMT

    The Australians look to have more solid batting and better bowling than WI. The best thing going for WI is the spirit Sammy has installed, but the talent really isn't there. As the saying goes, the race isn't always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong- but that's the way to bet.

  • Andross on April 7, 2012, 3:39 GMT

    @ Dwight Bowen - Take it easy, no one as far as I know has called Australia unbeatable since Warne, McGrath and Hayden and Langer left, and they're hardly the strongest side they've ever been now. What there is though, are some promising signs. In fact I think that the two teams are in very similar stages at the moment, both are in the rebuilding stages and looking quite promising, and it should be a good battle; of course as an Aussie I would still like the Australians to win, but neither me, nor anyone else with any intelligence is going to say that we can't be beaten and opponents shouldn't bother turning up.

  • Saeed on April 7, 2012, 1:43 GMT

    Have you guys seen Daniel Brettig's WI/Aus 1st Test preview? He's omitted Shiv from the starting eleven. Is Chanders injured or does Daniel think he won't be selected?

  • Dummy4 on April 7, 2012, 1:37 GMT

    Sylvanus, Sammy reads the comments, they only make him stronger. He has the faith and determination. All he needs now is a bit of patience.

  • Dummy4 on April 6, 2012, 16:21 GMT

    Very Interesting.............Every dog is Lion in his own backyard. First Test is pivotial. From theron, it will be a walk on the sandy beaches of the Caribbean !! "RUMS GALORE" to Chanders and co.

  • Dummy4 on April 6, 2012, 14:54 GMT

    Randy Oz and company,pop gun attack?,really now.Well from tommorow,let the on field action do the talking,alot of you maybe in for some surprises,you have beaten Indis at home 4-0,dont expect the West Indies to be slaughtered so unmercifully like the indians were who did not even put up a significant fight.It is said,even if you lose,lose with dignity and fight,but this team has a more determined,never give up attitude,best of luck against the so called GREAT,UNBEATABLE Australian side.

  • pamodhi on April 6, 2012, 14:25 GMT

    @sinhaya: yes the aussies are beatable.. they have a long way to go before they reach the point of the earlier guys... but this side has competed very well in the longer format for a while now..and though the windies are indeed much better than they were they still lack the depth and experience of the aussies!!!! here's hoping for a aussie series victory!!!!!

  • Dummy4 on April 6, 2012, 13:16 GMT

    "Against a very talented opposition, you can't afford to give good players too many chances, and too many opportunities ...." the words of Michael Clarke Aussie Capt. Yet we tear down our own. We talk nonsense about Gayle being the best thing since slice bread and on and on we decry the efforts of Gibson and Sammy. As a West Indian I have never felt better about WI cricket since the glory days than now. This team has the fight and determination to make us proud. Honestly I sincerely hope that Sammy does not read the comments that are made here on a daily basis by ppl who profess to love our team. If he does and is so strong I admire his tenacity becuz I would have given up long ago! I am of the view that if the top six batsmen do well we wont have to be so critical of Sammy. This guy is a game changer with his attitude and the fact that he is capable as has been shown to do miracles with his bowling,fielding and batting when we least expect it. To Sammy and the team make us proud.

  • Randolph on April 6, 2012, 11:14 GMT

    @zenboomerang - I am very glad you mentioned Clarke's fielding. He was overshadowed for years by Symmonds and Ponting, and doesn't get enough credit. Absolute rocket left arm on the run.

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