Australia in West Indies 2012

Clarke alert to collapso dangers

Daniel Brettig In Barbados

April 5, 2012

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Michael Clarke cuts Sulieman Benn during his unbeaten 48, West Indies v Australia, 3rd Test, Barbados, 4th day, June 15, 2008
Michael Clarke knows that batsmen must be on their game in the Caribbean © AFP
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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

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Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge 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.

Posted by landl47 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by TeamSelector 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?

Posted by   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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by warneythebest 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!!!!!

Posted by   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.

Posted by RandyOZ 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.

Posted by   on (April 6, 2012, 9:30 GMT)

On paper, WI are not as good as Australia, they were written off in the ODI and T20 matches but surprise surprise it was a draw in both. The test series would again be exciting to watch with players like Rampaul, Edwards (Fidel), Bishoo, Edwards (Kirk), Bravo (Darren), old reliable Chanderpaul, Bravo (Dwaye), and Sammy who never says die. It won't be a surprise if the Aussies win the toss and bat first, they might be in for a surprise. WI would have all the belief and enthusiasm that they can beat this aussie side and beat them they have only in the limited overs series and all without Gayle. Michael Clarke is short or match practise as is Ponting and many other test specialists. Let the battle for the Frank Worrel trophy begin.

Posted by Sinhaya on (April 6, 2012, 9:23 GMT)

@Joseph Mcgahan and pras_punter, Windies have good players who can win matches like Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Darren Sammy, Kirk Edwards and even Ravi Rampaul. Remember when Australia toured West Indies in 2008, Windies lost 2 test by less than one hundred runs and remember Chanderpaul was a victim of bad umpiring. Windies in 2008 lost ODIs 5-0 but this time have remarkably improved. So is the test team today than the ODI team 4 years ago. Windies have nothing to lose. If Sunil Narine played the tests, Aussies would have been in real danger. Also, Australia winning practice games wont have any bearing on tests just like how England won practice matches in UAE in January and also in Colombo last month but lost the tests!

Posted by gimme-a-greentop on (April 6, 2012, 9:22 GMT)

"Collapso"...biggest groan imaginable....

Posted by   on (April 6, 2012, 8:21 GMT)

@Sinhaya yes Australia are beatable, however I dont think the WI's have the exprience or depth to compete over five days

Posted by PrasPunter on (April 6, 2012, 8:10 GMT)

@sinhaya, the shorter formats wouldnt really matter when it comes to testing a a team's endurance. How it does in Tests matter the most. Having come-off a good 12 months winning a series in SL, levelling one against SA and sweeping india 4-0, we are pretty confident that we would do well. Yes we are beatable, but still our worst-ever team is better than the best that some of the teams can field. Go Aussies !! cricinfo, please publish !!

Posted by zenboomerang on (April 6, 2012, 7:52 GMT)

Worried that Watson is being considered a no.3 batsman when our 4,5,6 all have better records, with Clarke & Ponting being in v.g. form atm... Also Watson hasn't done a lot with the bat since returning from injury - lots of good starts followed by brain fades... Also he hasn't really had a break since the end of the tri-nations series & I would have spelled him for the President XI game to freshen him up for the Test tomorrow...

Posted by zenboomerang on (April 6, 2012, 7:50 GMT)

@Sinhaya... I'm not a rocket scientist, but I guess randyoz would say that Clarke wasn't playing in the ODI's due to injury... His batting form is probably at his best in years & I would think his inclusion to both the ODI & Test teams is significant - the least being that he is a v.g. captain & fielder...

Posted by PrasPunter on (April 6, 2012, 7:15 GMT)

In Pup, we have a mature and level-headed captain and a wonderful batsman who is pretty much determined to take us to where we belong to - being the best . Hope we do really well and win the series. Go Aussies !!!

Posted by Sinhaya on (April 6, 2012, 6:58 GMT)

@RandyOZ, then how come Australia could not walkover in the ODIs and T20s?? Windies nearly won all the ODIs. They could have won 5-0 had they possessed more finishing touches. Aussies are a beatable side.

Posted by simonviller on (April 6, 2012, 6:08 GMT)

Now our mouth piece has delivered a true motivational speach to the Australians , probably to the detriment of Bishoo .It's true that empty vessels make the most noise ,and always at the wrong time Mr Baugh . If Australia needed motivation ,they now have it after hearing you illinformed comments . This speach could very well come back to haunt you one way or another ; needless to say I find very repulsive as it comes from so far down the chain of command .

Posted by zenboomerang on (April 6, 2012, 6:05 GMT)

WI fans are still bagging Darren Sammy?... He's a bowler 1st & batsman (aver @17) a distant 2nd... If the top 6 don't get runs then don't blame it on the bowlers whose job it is to get wickets... As a bowler Sammy (av 30 /econ 2.8 /s.r. 63) has a better bowling average than Roach (32 / 3.2 / 60), Edwards (37 / 3.9 / 56), Rampaul (34 / 2.9 / 69)... Don't know why fans expect a bowler to get big scores (his highest score 58), just because he is the captain & quite a good one at that...

Posted by RandyOZ on (April 6, 2012, 5:14 GMT)

Will be an absolute walkover. The number 1 batsman in the world, Michael Clarke, will carve up this popgun attack!

Posted by ali00 on (April 6, 2012, 4:52 GMT)

come on Pup make another triple century and i know you can. bring home 3-0 against west indies.

Posted by   on (April 6, 2012, 3:52 GMT)

With 59 wickets at 30.05,Sammy's bowling aggregate or average is decent enough especially being a medium pacer;however, a batting of 17 plus obviously is what he needs to improve.People have argued that he offsets the balance of the team,but really,who else will the board give it to?,Chanderpaul,he had it and stated in the past he is not keen on taking on that responsibility again,K Edwards and D Bravo are 2 young bucks now learning their craft at international level,too much of a burden for them now.Cant give any of the openers,number 6 batsmen,or any of the bowlers,so right now especially with Ramdin still recovering from a broken finger(he played recently in first class game as purely a batsman),cannot be considered.So saying that,Sammy,just rally the guys together,this is by far the toughest assignment you will face,even tougher than facing India in India which they did with alot of heart late last year.Remember,not even the number one ranked team won a single game there recently.

Posted by Sinhaya on (April 6, 2012, 3:20 GMT)

Come on West Indies and good luck in the series against Australia from a die hard Sri Lankan fan! You all nearly beat India in the last test match you all played and that simply shows what you all are capable of. I wish if Narine played as that would have made victory easier for Windies. Play hard cricket throughout and you can beat Aussies as the Kiwis did it in Hobart last year. Encourage young stars like Powell and Braithwaite to stay as long as possible in the middle. Last but not the least Sammy, you must balance your aggression in test cricket and target big scores rather than just a quickfire 20 or 30. GOOD LUCK WINDIES!

Posted by ramps_wi on (April 6, 2012, 3:15 GMT)

Sammy, you need to dig in and score some runs, you have to lead by example, caribbean people forget very fast, and they soon going to forget your performances in the one days if you do badly

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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