England v Australia, World Twenty20 final, Barbados May 17, 2010

Subtle anchor role weighs Clarke down


Michael Clarke is the best batsman by far in Australia's Test team and comfortably the least productive in Twenty20s. He is also the captain and has led the side in 15 matches, winning 12 times and losing once. It was a big defeat - the World Twenty20 final - but his leadership is not what is in doubt. He is still being groomed for the Test captaincy and his current troubles will develop his experience base for Ricky Ponting's role when the incumbent steps down.

It is two years until the next global Twenty20 event and Clarke is unlikely to be there unless he transforms his batting approach of slicing gaps into more bombing of balls into grandstands. As Clarke understands, subtlety is not necessary in this format. By sprinting singles and finding regular twos, he thought he was doing the right thing by his team. He wasn't.

"I certainly know they [my performances] haven't been up to scratch through this whole tournament and probably in Twenty20 cricket in general," Clarke said after the final defeat in Barbados. "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."

Australia need more of Clarke's Christchurch outlook - he blasted 67 off 45 balls there in February - and less of his jogging in the Caribbean. In seven games he managed 92 runs at an average of 15.33 and a strike-rate of 80.70, making him the side's modern-day incarnation of Geoff Marsh, the batting anchor of the 1980s. The next lowest strike-rate, including the bowlers, was Brad Haddin's 102.08.

He deserves a chance to change and there is no rush for an overall. This is not like the 50-over World Cup, which signals a clear-out as teams re-focus for an event four years ahead. Before the next World Twenty20 there are oodles of opportunities for players to emerge through the various domestic leagues. Except for Clarke.

By being a Test and one-day master Clarke won't be able to practise raising his short game. International Twenty20 engagements over the rest of the year are rare and there will be only three on offer for Australia during the home summer. New South Wales, his state side, are not in the Champions League, he doesn't play in the IPL, and he won't get to turn out in Australia's Big Bash.

If he can't morph into a batting hare, a smooth transition will be much easier to achieve next year. Ponting, 35, will probably retire from ODIs at the end of the World Cup in April, having attempted a fourth win in a row, and Clarke can take over in a format he is at one with. That will allow him to shed the Twenty20 demands and let the regeneration of the T20 set-up to occur with a new leader. Cameron White is the current vice-captain but the personnel in this squad can alter so rapidly that Tasmania's George Bailey might also be a contender.

Until then Clarke must remember the strokes of his youth when he bats in Twenty20s. The drives over cover, the hooks in the air and the freedom of belting the ball without worrying about the consequences. This was the attitude that blew him into Test cricket with a century on debut in Bangalore - he hit four sixes to Adam Gilchrist's three - and another one in his first game at home against New Zealand. At the Gabba he reached three figures with two pulled fours and a three in the over before lunch.

At the time he was the breathtaking wonder boy of Australian cricket. After he was cut from the Test side a year later he eliminated those riskier elements, growing into the country's most professional batsman, and hasn't been able to re-programme them.

"That's the thing, if I play like that, that's probably why I got dropped," Clarke said in November. "You have your day in the sun sometimes then miss out five times." One awesome day every six matches in Twenty20 means there is no talk of you getting the sack.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • JIGNESH on May 19, 2010, 9:13 GMT

    Clarke looks "CHIDIMAAR" all along in every game. Moreover, he plays in T20 game like Ganguly and Dravid are playing in ODIs. Look at his average strike rate in T20. Even though, Ricky Ponting plays better than him in T20, moreover; Ricky Ponting is better captain than him, and probably the best captain in the world. Actually, I hate the australians, but the hate is never going to change the fact. I really don't get why Aus. selectors don't allow Ponting to be a captain in T20. Clarke is only appropriate to play in Tests, and of-course in ODIs occasionally.

  • Sakib on May 19, 2010, 7:59 GMT

    I think all through the tournament Australia got their batting order wrong but that was shed by their bowling performances. Cameron white should come at 3. Because he replaced Rickey ponting in the 6-1 thrashing of England in ODIs and was brilliant with two fifty odds and a 100. Clark should bat at 4, his usual test position. Hussey comes in at 5 giving him time to build and then bash at the end. Haddin is a natural slogger. So he shud come in at 6. We all saw what he could do at that position when he blasted 37 of 18 against west indies in the Australian summer. Mitchel Johnson looked tired after the brilliant performance in New Zealand. May be Ryan Harris could come in because of his batting credentials. Steve Smith is perfect. He just needs to improve his bowling by taking tips from Warne.

  • Jim on May 19, 2010, 1:48 GMT

    Clarke knows himself he is not the right man for the number 3, great captain but he can get out of the mode on building innings which can take to long, T20 is for reckless players who dont care about averages and just love to hit the ball as hard and far as possible,just give the job to hussy or white as captain, but im hoping one day White plays for the test team soon,he can do the andrew symonds roll since the selectors treated Andrew so harsh bloody nobs what a waste of talent, also the umpires need to stop being pussys and expect if they make a harsh decision there going to get a shake of the head on a small comment, its all part of cricket

  • Thank You on May 19, 2010, 0:49 GMT

    Clarke needs his party-girl girlfriend to sing him a lullaby and nurse him back to form. Poor puppy - he's been working so hard. Needs a break from all this pressure of 20 over cricket.

  • Dummy4 on May 19, 2010, 0:07 GMT

    Believe me 20/20 is not for Kallis or Clarke unless they change their approch. so What is the advatage when team is chasing 180,then somebody score 50 out of 53 balls and not loosing many wickets at the end of the innings

  • Lou on May 18, 2010, 23:35 GMT

    'He deserves a chance to change and there is no rush for an overall.' I don't agree that he needs time to adjust. He's had time. He hasn't adjusted. He goes above a runrate of about 100 every 6 games or so. That is a very long way from being just about even.

    In ODI's for the last 2 years he has been the Aussies' slowest batsman by quite some way. He doesn't play swashbuckling innings anymore he is just 'works' it around playing risk-free cricket. He should never have been made captain of the 20/20 team and most Aussie fans know it for the simple reason that he can't hold his place in the squad.

    Why should other players have to take all the risks when the captain won't or can't?

    His performance in the final was embarrassing. No other word for it.

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2010, 19:39 GMT

    Clarke shud b given another chance..

  • Venkatesh on May 18, 2010, 18:46 GMT

    @gr8_sachin_fan -- pls claim urself that u belong to a different planet or a novice in cricket as far as stats are concerned...

  • vinod on May 18, 2010, 18:18 GMT

    M.Clarke should opt himself of the T20 games, If he continue playing he may loose the spot even in test matches. He is already loosing form in 50 over games. CA groomed his as the future captain. Does he really have the potential to be a captain in all formes of cricket...?. Anyone in the world can be the captain for Australia by means of their hard core games. They are still the superior team in the world, but they need a replacement after R.Pointing. I suggest C.White as the best to achieve this spot if he was given a place in the test matches. He is arguably a dominant and hard hitting batsman with lot of temperment who can play really according to the situation.

  • Ash on May 18, 2010, 17:51 GMT

    Well, honestly I think Pup should follow Punter and retire from T20. That will do a lot good for the present team by allowing them to add Dougi or Bret/Harris to havel 5 good bowlers which will reduce the stress on Watto. Alternatively, they can have both Steven Smith and Hauritz in a slow pitch too. In batting, it allows Hussey or White to use more overs for themselves. White is already proved a good captain anyway. Batting is pretty good but sometimes bowling looks ordinary like in the T20 finals.

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