West Indies v Australia, 1st Test, Bridgetown, 5th day April 12, 2012

Clarke finds inspiration from Adelaide '06 heist


Michael Clarke's belief that the Bridgetown Test match could be won was forged six years ago in the middle of Adelaide Oval. He had been joined at the wicket by Shane Warne, Australia struggling for first innings parity with England on the fourth day of what seemed destined to be a drawn Ashes Test. Simply and clearly, Warne told Clarke the match would be won. On a scarcely believable final day, it was.

Clarke carried that memory with him throughout the first Test against the West Indies, and echoed Warne in assuring his team that the Barbados match remained within their grasp. After a mighty struggle over the final two days, the visitors dragged themselves up from a position every bit as dire as the one occupied by Australia against England in 2006, and another remarkable victory was secured. It made Clarke only the second captain in the history of Test cricket to win a match after declaring behind.

"I remember Warney telling me back then that with a day and a half left in the Test match that we would win the game and I was trying to work out how," Clarke said of 2006. "At best surely we'd get a draw but he had no doubt in his mind. For me as a young player I thought 'right-o, that's my attitude, I'm going to win'. A few years on and I'm in the change rooms telling the boys we're going to win this Test match. Hopefully a few of them believed me the way I believed Warney back then.

"It shows, if you have that self-belief and belief in the inner sanctum and the guys that sit beside you that you find ways. That was the main thing I said to the boys today. I know it's tough, I know we're tired, I know there's going to be issues of the foot marks, I know it's going to be a tough run chase but find a way. Everyone and individually as a team we've got to find a way and we'll win this Test match. Credit to the boys, they certainly found a way."

Australia are building a team to be reckoned with under Clarke, and he had little hesitation declaring the Bridgetown result the equal of any he had enjoyed. It was as much a victory over the conditions and late season lethargy as the opposition, a West Indies team that is gathering discipline, skill and experience but is still learning how to fight out the critical phases of a Test.

"A just reward for hanging in, the team showing true character and fight and not giving up," Clarke said. "I think whatever happened this afternoon, whether we won the game, drew the game or lost the game, I think we certainly showed a lot of fight, a lot of character. We tried to win the Test.

"We did everything we could to try and win the Test match and it's very, very rewarding now sitting in the change rooms with that bunch of boys that we got the result we were after…after a lot of hard work, a couple of days with, I guess, our backs to the wall. But to be able to fight and get a result like that, that's as special a win as I've had in my career.

"This is as good as I've had, no doubt, because we had our backs to the wall for the first three days of the game. And the spirit and the character, I guess of the guys in the change room is what drives you, I guess, as a captain to make a bold decision, to declare when I declared. The confidence around me from everybody in that group, there wasn't one bit of fear of losing that Test match, it wasn't spoken about.

"From day one of the Test all that's been spoken about is what we have to do to win this Test match. And a lot of time it's easier said than done, especially when a team gets 450 on the board in the first two days, you get some time taken out of the game with the light, so full credit to every single player and support staff person in that change room."

The Australian team is beginning to bear the stamp of Clarke - relentlessly positive, adventurous, tactically agile and skillful. He said the team was learning more about how to best operate under pressure, meaning the lapses that occurred in Cape Town against South Africa and Hobart against New Zealand are now growing less likely to occur. It is also benefiting from the balance between the brash youth of David Warner, and the poise of older heads like Michael Hussey, so calm in the chase as he had been in Adelaide six years ago.

"I think we are just learning more and more about each other every day, especially under pressure," Clarke said. "We're working out what guys require to perform their best under pressure. We're seeing guys stand up when they get an opportunity to play Test cricket. We're seeing some old hands and some old legs still pulling tricks out of the bag to help us win games and Huss is a great example of that.

"We're putting in really good team performances. You're not going to be successful individually every single time you walk out to bat or walk out to bowl. But I think the team we have at the moment, the players we have around the group at the moment aren't bothered about themselves. They care most about the team winning and doing whatever they can to contribute to success. In my mind, there's no coincidence the team's doing well because we're all putting the team first."

Edited by Kanishkaa Balachandran

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Srinivas on April 15, 2012, 18:24 GMT

    @Meety, :). Thanks bro. We love the game of cricket. Don't we? Some of us are fans of those who play it, who play it with purpose and integrity, for the team, as opposed to for personal milestones. Clarke personifies that spirit of a team game. All the more reason such players with integrity are the ones that should be leading the team. It puts a check on players who play for personal milestones with blatant disregard for team goals. I see that some Aussies don't respect Clarke. Well, I would be glad to give him Indian Citizenship, Captaincy of the Indian team and send Sachin to play for Australia on any day. No two ways about it.

  • Andrew on April 15, 2012, 0:58 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas - I've always felt you held the torch of reason in a sea of wildness amongst your compatriots. About the only thing I ever truly disagreed with you on is the difference between the Great WIndies sides v Ozz greats - & that was healthy!

  • Harry on April 14, 2012, 13:54 GMT

    @Giovaughn Wilson. yes they did, but England took over the #1 spot after the 3rd test, so the 4th test India was actually #2 (and beginning their freefall that will take them down to # by year end). But I can see why you asked the question.

  • Dummy4 on April 14, 2012, 11:39 GMT

    @ harry kool - didnt England white wash India when they were number 1 in test cricket just last year?

  • John on April 14, 2012, 10:11 GMT

    @Rooboy on (April 13 2012, 07:35 AM GMT) Re captaincy - I feel one of the best philosophies is to lead by example. Clarke is certainly not an in your face sort of captain , but the fact that he has become the best batsman in the world since he became captain has obviously inspired him and he certainly is leading by example. I still think the declaration - although maybe obvious in hindsight - and the timing of it was inspired. I don't feel that Aus have the depth of talent that Ponting and other captains had at their disposal so for Clarke to do what he has been doing with the side I have to give him full credit

  • Harry on April 14, 2012, 8:59 GMT

    @Trickstar. yes, we beat #8 but they are a team on the improve, & as been pointed out below, your lot got towelled by the #5, the first time a #1 ranked team has been clean sheeted. Well done, but not an ususual occurence as it does recall shades of the 5-0 blot of 06/07 eh? Also pal, your lot lost to the Windies last time they toured there!

  • Srinivas on April 14, 2012, 8:09 GMT

    @Chris_P, thanks for quoting me. If you followed my comments during our 4-0 drubbing by Australia, you would know how effusive I was in praising Aussies especially Clarke, Hussey, Ponting and all the pace bowlers. Michael Clarke, honestly, has nothing to prove, in any format. I just want him to silence his critics one more time. I really hope some of his freshness and the priceless attitude to play for the team and not for milestones rubs onto some of his Indian Team mates in IPL. I was elated when I came to know that Clarke is going to play IPL. Watching Clarke bat and observing the way he leads his team in itself a surreal learning experience for me as an Indian. To think that some Indians will rub shoulders with him, I can't be much happier than this. Ganguly and Clarke in one team - that will be a wealth of experience for many Indians.

  • Jessee on April 14, 2012, 3:50 GMT

    @Trickstar, better than being the world number 1 team and being whitewashed in an away test series

  • Randolph on April 14, 2012, 1:36 GMT

    The English are absolutely shaking in their boots at the moment. They've just come off the back of a 4-0 drubbing, and Australia has won 8 of the last 11 tests its played. The good old days are coming back boys!

  • Billy on April 13, 2012, 22:44 GMT

    @Chithsabesh, agree, Australia needs to beat England and Pakistan and South Africa and India in India in the next two years and then I'm pretty sure by the nature of the rankings that they will be back to number one. Otherwise the team will hover around top three but not reach number one. The other way is to rely on other results and get to number one by stealth which is pretty much what India did when they were not losing series and drawing a few and other teams lost series.

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