Clarke concedes he was 'not up to scratch'
Michael Clarke has admitted his place in Australia's Twenty20 line-up will come under scrutiny when the team gets home despite him leading the side to the final of the World Twenty20. His captaincy is not the major source of concern, but he has laboured with the bat throughout the tournament with 92 runs 15.33.
He came in at No. 3 against England and quickly ran out David Warner after a terrible call for a single to cover and almost did the same to Brad Haddin later that over. He contributed 27, his top score for the competition, as Australia recovered from 8 for 3 but it was a horribly scratchy innings which was ended when he chipped Graeme Swann to midwicket.
His Twenty20 international record now stands at 437 runs with an average of 21.86, although it's the strike-rate of barely above a run a ball which is a major problem. Australia's power-packed line-up was largely able to cover for his form, but England didn't mind the longer he stayed in during the final. Life was much harder when David Hussey and Cameron White joined forces.
"There's no doubt that the selectors will need to have a look at my performances," he said in an unusually candid remark. "I certainly know they haven't been up to scratch through this whole tournament and probably in Twenty20 cricket in general. I'm sure the selectors will sit down and have a look and if I'm not the right guy for No. 3 and the captaincy then they'll make that decision."
Clarke was handed the captaincy when Ricky Ponting retired from the Twenty20 format, although there was already concern whether he was the best man for the job with White gaining considerable support. But with Clarke being Ponting's vice-captain in Tests and one-dayers it was the logical step.
He has led his team well in the tournament as they produced an unbeaten run to the final before coming unstuck as Sri Lanka did last year. Australia's Twenty20 cricket has made huge strides after they were dumped out in the first round in England with the likes of Dirk Nannes, Shaun Tait and David Hussey making major contributions. If Australia stick to their method of picking a team first, then a captain, Clarke may struggle to hold his place, although he relished the challenge over the last two weeks.
"I've enjoyed every minute it," Clarke said. "Captaining your country is a wonderful thing and I've been very lucky to get that chance. I'm stoked to have been given this opportunity to lead the Twenty20 team. There are no guarantees in this world and it's about getting back and preparing for the next tournament. I'll be back as vice-captain which I really enjoy and we have a wonderful leader back in Australia."
Reflecting on the final, which Australia lost by seven wickets, he offered no excuses for the defeat which ended the team's hopes of holding the three limited-overs titles at the same time. However, the result clearly stung following the Ashes reversal in England last year.
"I've seen them celebrate twice in a short space of time now but they deserved it," he said. The boys were very keen and excited about today. We knew we needed to be at our best. We knew England were going to be tough, they are a very tough Twenty20 team and losing those three wickets early didn't help and it put a lot of pressure on our middle order.
"But I thought we did well to scrape our way to 140-odd, although we were probably about 30 runs short, or 50 runs short the way England batted. We got beaten by the better team today."
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo