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Captain Clarke has more than one contest to win

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Tom Fordyce | 06:12 UK time, Friday, 31 December 2010

Sydney, New South Wales

It should be the pinnacle of Michael Clarke's career - captaining his country for the first time, in his home town, against the old enemy in an Ashes Test.

Except it doesn't quite feel like the celebration or the coronation that it should.

The circumstances are unfortunate to say the least: a stand-in job for the injured Ricky Ponting, Australia 2-1 down and coming off their second innings defeat in three Tests, with the Ashes already retained by England, a young side of not-yets and will-they-evers taking dreadful stick from public and press alike, and his own form apparently in pieces.

Neither will the headlines in Clarke's local newspaper on Friday morning lift his mood. Of the 4,500 people surveyed by Sydney's Daily Telegraph, only 15% backed him as long-term skipper. Simon Katich polled more votes, and he is (a) 35, and (b) unlikely to ever play Test cricket again.

Katich, captain of the New South Wales state side, is a popular man in these parts. But that doesn't quite explain why Clarke - at his best a fabulous batsman, full of dreamy drives and fancy footwork - appears to draw such a lukewarm response from cricket lovers across the country.

"I've copped criticism throughout my whole career - it's no different now," he said here on Thursday, and he's absolutely right.

From the other side of the world, Clarke's easy progression through the ranks (he made his first-class debut as a 19-year-old, captained Australia's under-19 team a decade ago and scored splendid centuries in his debut Tests both home and away) looked like the untroubled ascent of a shiny new sporting hero. He was awarded the Allan Border medal - given to the outstanding Aussie cricketer of the year - ahead of favourites Damien Martyn and Adam Gilchrist, and seemed set to inherit Steve Waugh's mantle as the state and country's most feted batsman.

Yet even then there were signs that the Australian public was not quite willing to clutch this young Pup to its breast.

Michael Clarke captained Australia under-19s

Clarke is a recipient of the Allan Border Medal and a former Wisden Cricketer of the Year

Already Clarke had gained a reputation as a player who enjoyed making commercial cash, signing lucrative endorsements with an underwear manufacturer, a bat maker and a chocolate drink firm.

There is nothing wrong with buying a sports car, particularly when you are a working-class kid who grew up with posters of them on the bedroom walls of your childhood home in the west Sydney suburb of Liverpool, but if the runs then dry up, it can become an easy symbol for the doubters to take aim at.

And Clarke's runs did dry up. After a brilliant series in India was matched by one back home against New Zealand, he struggled badly against the reverse-swing of England's bowlers during the 2005 Ashes and found himself dropped from the Test side.

Showing considerable character and unarguable cricketing class, he scored a heap of runs in the Sheffield Shield, swapped his Ferrari for a Range Rover and won his place back in time to take revenge against England by smashing consecutive centuries in the 2006-7 Ashes series down under.

The on-pitch successes continued. Cutting out the wristy gambles and flamboyant flicks, he made his second coming count, just as Katich was doing the same and as Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden had before them. Centuries at Lord's and Edgbaston saw him named Australia's Man of the Series by England coach Andy Flower in 2009 Ashes; he was voted one of Wisden's Cricketers of the Year a few months later.

But the problems off it have never quite gone away.

"For some reason there are question marks over Michael Clarke," Steve Waugh said this week, and everyone in Australia understood what he meant.

Some put it down to Clarke's private life, which over the last six years has been anything but. With ex-fiancee Lara Bingle he was a regular in the gossip mags and tittle-tattle weeklies, popping up at openings and ad campaigns like a prototype Antipodean Posh and Becks.

Bingle, a model from down the coast in Yowie Bay, came to prominence in a commercial for Tourism Australia asking "Where are you?" The answer, when she was on Clarke's arm, was everywhere.

If that tabloid familiarity sat uneasily with those used to the sober statesmanship of Waugh, the end of their relationship was messier still. Clarke flew home in the middle of Australia's tour of New Zealand citing "personal reasons" after Bingle announced she was suing her former partner and Aussie Rules larrikin Brendan Fevola for releasing compromising photographs from their time together.

Bingle agreed to sell her story to the same magazine that had printed the pictures of her in the first place. A few days later, Clarke's management company called a late-night news conference to announce that the engagement was off.

Those sorts of things did not happen to Waugh, Mark Taylor or Allan Border, let alone the near-sacred figures who preceded them as Australia's captain - Bobby Simpson, Richie Benaud and Sir Don Bradman.

Neither did the tattoos. Apart from an unfortunate 'LB' tribute to Bingle above a crouching angel on his right bicep, Clarke also has ink featuring his Test cap number, the words 'carpe diem' (seize the day in Latin) and the names of his parents Les John and Deborah written in Hindi.

Tattoos are no sort of reason to take against someone. If they were, this particular BBC correspondent would be another one in some trouble. Most of us have also experienced more than the odd sticky patch in our relationships. No man deserves unsympathetic censure for making mistakes he later regrets.

But Clarke was also having problems within the sanctuary of the dressing-room. Rumours of his supposed unpopularity within the team were already circulating in the Australian media when he was involved in an angry confrontation in February 2009 with the more traditional, church-going Katich.

At the end of every Test match win, the Australian team sing their victory anthem 'Under the Southern Cross I Stand'. After the West Indies had been beaten at the SCG in February last year, Clarke reportedly wanted it sung early so he could spend time with his family and Bingle. Katich disagreed and a fierce argument ensued.

"For the stuff in the change-room you'd have to ask the other guys, but I certainly feel the guys have shown me a lot of respect when I've had the opportunity to captain," Clarke said after skippering the one-day defeat to Sri Lanka earlier this season

"People will make their judgment, but I think as a team we need to continue to work together. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it's important to be true to yourself, and true to who you are."

The cricket authorities in Australia have made a big show of publicly backing Clarke in the build-up to this fifth Test, which the Baggy Greens must win to prevent an England series victory.

"Over next couple of weeks the Australian public will see a different Michael Clarke," insists coach Tim Nielsen.

"He has the chance to relax. He is not man in waiting anymore, he is the man and that is a big weight off his shoulders. I'm comfortable his strength of character will allow him to step into the job and do a good job.

"It's a huge moment for him and we all need to support him. Michael grabs people through his performance and is a natural leader, and that is why he has been appointed when Ricky is not playing. He has confidence to take risks and back himself under pressure."

Clarke deserves his opportunity to prove the doubters wrong. At 29 years old he should ready for the challenge, even if he is currently averaging only 21 and has inherited a side more inexperienced than any Aussie outfit since Taylor's team of late 1995.

Inside his left forearm he has another tattoo, this time a series of Arabic letters. Roughly translated, they read as follows: "The pain of discipline is nothing like the pain of disappointment".

It is a maxim that Clarke should now know by heart.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    It's a tricky one for the Aussie selectors. The last thing they need right now is a skipper whom some of his colleagues in the dressing room think is a bit of a poser. It could turn out to be a repeat of England's disastrous KP experience. Similarly, skippers selected only on the basis of 'leading by example', eg: Botham and Flintoff, even though both undoubtedly had the support of the players, haven't lasted long for England.

    They may regret building Clarke up as the skipper-in-waiting; I suspect there'll be more nerves in the office than on the field.


    On the other hand, if Australia win the game and square the series, he'll be a hero and probably get another five years at the helm.

  • Comment number 3.

    Seemingly without any "players in waiting" it's no real surprise that there's a dearth of potential captains. Who else was on the list? The wait for a better player could be a long one, but I recall reading that in the past it was common for Australian captains to be appointed on short terms (a sort of "rolling-tenure").

    Regarding the anthem disagreements, Tom, I'm a bit confused. Do they only sing it when they're winning?

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Australian victory in fifth test will mostly depend on team selection that what type of team they will select for the final test. It they again go for two allrounders then it will be difficult for them to win the last test match. They must not convert their test team into a one day team. Here I again insists that they should drop watson down the order probably at no 6 and select a proper test opener like langer or Hyden. One must not forget that Australian previous success at test level under the captaincy of Taylor, Waugh and Ponting largely owned to their selection of a proper test opening batsmans. Watson may be very good for one dayers opening but test match or a test innings required a different skill. Though Watson score 1 or 2 fifites in the series but he was not able to convert his fifties to big hundreds like previous Australian opening batsmans. A good opening partnership will ease the pressure on Ponting when he come to bat.
    Also at the moment I am not in favour of Smith inclusion in the test team. He is very energetic, having good fielding capabilities but he is not a batsman or allrounder on which Australian team depends at no 6 or 7. What Australia need is 6 proper batsman, batting wicket keeper and 4 front line bowlers.

  • Comment number 6.

    I´m not sure I´d have Clarke as skipper. As it´s a stand-in job, I´d sooner go for someone in form. Probably Haddin, in this case... But then, I´m English, so I´m delighted to see them turning to someone out of form.

    However, I´m now intrigued to hear what kind of tattoo you have.

    A friend of mine, having been in some form with the bat, showed up one day with that day´s date inked onto his shoulder. He claimed it was to celebrate his maiden century, which he was convinced would be struck on that day. It wasn´t. In fact, he went for a golden duck.

    That evening he proposed to his girlfriend (who hadn´t seen the tattoo yet), so he could claim it was to commemorate that particular event. But we know better...

  • Comment number 7.

    As someone currently in Australia, Clarke is certainly unpopular - the papers all seem to be against his temporary appointment. I think the more popular option would be Haddin but at 33yo, he is not a long term choice.

    The administrators and selectors seem fairly rigid and unswerving in their views, Clarke has obviously been groomed for the role for some time and the selectors aren't about to change their mind this close to the next test.

    Maybe the responsibility will spur him on but personally I can't see it. The Aussies are certainly in a mess right now and with the press vilifying the team and the selectors on daily basis I don't see any reason why we can't wrap the series up with a win in Sydney - weather permitting.

  • Comment number 8.

    Steady on you guys. Comment #4 didn't seem that bad. He only seemed to be drawing attention to how easy it was for the first poster to circumvent the house rules by the use of a little creative-English.

  • Comment number 9.

    much like selecting Michael Beer, Cricket Australia have played their cards too early in bringing Michael Clarke to be "the next captain" (maybe it's the name Michael??) and feel the need to see it through. The public opinion means nothing when a team starts winning, but is Michael Clarke really a great tactician and a captain? As far as I am aware he hasn't captained NSW (his state) for some time (if ever) and I think that's an issue. Cricket Australia should be looking at form players who have leadership experience who Clarke is not in either of those at the moment.

    Who should be captain? Well, there is a massive hole in Australia and I feel they missed a trick with Cameron White, but that's their issue to deal with. Cricket Australia do not show the necessary flexibility for the current situation as they still believe their team to be below where they should be so, and their could be a number of different captains over the next few years until they work everything out.

  • Comment number 10.

    What has happened to the great Aussie tradition of picking your best/in form eleven and then picking the captain?

    Seems to have gone out the window.

    Australian selection policy is mirroring that of England in the 90's and the results will be similar.

  • Comment number 11.

    In full flow MC is a joy to watch and times the ball beautifully making shots look effortless and his future as Aussie test captain seemed a racing certainty.

    But Ponting decided to carry on as captain while Clarke returned to form and the window of opportunity for natural sucession closed. Similar to when Flintoff was chosen over Strauss to cover for Vaughan.

    Now the cards are stacked against an easy transition as Clarkes' off field reputation has suffered and he will be fighting on two fronts to prove he is worthy of the Aussies ultimate honour.

    Maybe, just maybe he will pull it off and be a tougher skipper as a result. Could Ponting do a Nasser and return to the ranks before retirement it may not be an easy thing to do but I think the longer this decision is put-off the harder it will be for the Aussie team to rebuild for the long-term.




  • Comment number 12.

    Seems I cannot make a comment without it being deleted. Anyway if Ponting resigns/or is stripped of his captaincy, then I doubt he will continue to be in the team. There is in Aussie tradition of not letting captains play after they have left the position. Is this the last of Ponting we have seen? I hope so.

    Clarke is an unpopular figure for sure. Out of form, and more concered about his celebrity status than his cricket. Shane Watson/Cameron White would make better captains. Not taking Cameron White for the Ashes was the biggest mistake Australia made.

  • Comment number 13.

    #9 I agree - why is Cameron White not in the team when they pick people like that Smith bloke ?

    White was captain of Victoria when he was 20 and did pretty well.

    Mind you Victorians often seem to get overlooked for selction for some reason. I'll never understand why Brad Hodge never played more than 5 tests.

  • Comment number 14.

    SimplyZola, I would guess someone complained about your first comment, although I didn't find it offensive - thought it summed up what you were trying to say perfectly in fact!

    The general consensus in the papers in Oz is that Cameron White is rather a one trick pony, obviously a good one day player but not a good enough player to necessarily be an captaincy option in test matches.

  • Comment number 15.

    Sorry Tom, my point is not about Clarke but KP. Am I the only one who's stunned by KP's statement that thé Strauss/Flower partnership is essentially down to his actions? The BBC headline on this site sounds awful for a start. The article including quotes from KP justify it however. Is this really the best time for such details to come out? I am sceptical of this latest KP self-promotion. Like the speeding offence I think it raises questions about KP's mentality. At least Strauss had the sense to wear a false beard when he pulled a 150mph wheelie on the Ducati that Dame Edna Everage lent him.

    Lastly, someone recently complained about my use of French characters. I live in France in the mountains. My aging i-phone is my only contact with cyberworld. I have nô wifi source. Predictive text is in French unsurprisingly. To go back and ré-édit is all but impossible. I aim to be understood. I do try to undo the French stuff.

  • Comment number 16.

    most interesting blog of the series this one.

    you're definitely in trouble when you struggle to find a viable captain due to lack of candidates and / or the people you want having their places at risk.

    there's no doubt that clarke is one of the best batsmen in the world. few who know cricket will dispute this. but clarke, maybe 5 years ago and over the past year and a half, has had extremely poor runs of form to say the least.

    australia have chopped and changed like crazy this series, a tell-tale sign of a team in trouble - exactly what england were doing in their old days of being dominated, whereas these days under flower we are so much more patient and confident in our players to produce. it tells. they had faith in cook when so many were calling for his head. they've also shown good faith in bresnan. our team now develops slowly and naturally and it's great to see.

    my point is that clarke is a quality player and not only deserves his place in the team, but should be kept in it for some time yet, and if ponting doesn't return as captain the next one should naturally be clarke. i also hope that 3 ashes losses out of 4 will, despite his shortcomings, not change the general opinion of ponting as one of australia's great players, and a very good captain.

  • Comment number 17.

    ... to add to what i was saying - australia could do with a bit of stability and clarke is more than good enough to be at the centre of that

  • Comment number 18.

    @16

    "there's no doubt that clarke is one of the best batsmen in the world. few who know cricket will dispute this"

    Really? Recent form and his recent inability to control his off-field affairs which have affected his game TOTALLY disputes this. Ability and talent is one thing, the ability to harness and focus that and produce results - to be one of the best batsmen in the world - is something completely different.

  • Comment number 19.

    @18 i'm going on michael clarke's career test average of 47, that's a world class figure and higher than any england player bar pietersen, whom he narrowly trails, and trott, whose figures will calm down as his career progresses. he's also averaged above 50 in 2006, 07, 08 and 09, and with a 2010 average of pushing 37 i'm sure every player in the world would take that if it counts as a slump!

  • Comment number 20.

    @5

    You miss the point spectacularly.....there is a simple reason they can't drop Watson to 6 and open with a "langer or hayden". There isn't one. Why else would they have gone back to Hughes?

    This is an extremely average Oz team and if we fail to win the series now I really think that says a lot more about how good England are than how bad Australia are. It is imperative we win in Sydney to continue our progression. I for one could not understand the over the top celebrations at the MCG. We've WON nothing. Yet.

  • Comment number 21.

    @20 "I for one could not understand the over the top celebrations at the MCG. We've WON nothing. Yet. "

    no series win in a quarter of a century down under, we still haven't banished that ghost yet! retaining the ashes is a huge milestone, but an even bigger one is waiting, and the won we really wanted too.

    just imagine how they'll laugh at us, and how stupid that mcg dance will look in future years, if the aussies square the series and the wait goes on! remember, we aren't that much better than them. i still maintain the two sides are quite evenly matched - and with the dramatic ebbs and flows of the series so far england will have to be cautious against another aussie backlash.

  • Comment number 22.

    An excellent summation, Tom, of the predicament Australia find themselves in as they prepare for a long-term change in leadership.

    By common consent, Ponting will not be remembered as Australia's most tactically astute skipper. However, for large parts of his tenure, he did not need to be because he led by example and could call on the likes of Hayden, Langer, Gilchrist, Warne and McGrath.

    Clarke has never convincingly translated his obvious talent into consistent run-scoring in all conditions. If he can do that, he actually possesses a sharper cricket brain than Ponting.

    You can draw comparisons with Pietersen: a commercially-driven and flamboyant talent with a penchant for publicity. Pietersen's approach cost him and it may well prove to be Clarke's undoing too.

    If that were to happen, Clarke and Australia would have missed a trick. With their talent pool sparse, the Aussies need strong, astute leadership, which an in-form Clarke can provide.

  • Comment number 23.

    @19

    The question is, is the slump permanant or temporary?

    Off-field issues have had a large bearing on his form slump and his ability as a person to deal with them will determine the answer.

    Sorry but he would'nt make a third World XI right now, and he is far from in the right frame of mind to be captain of a countries cricket team.

    The Australian selectors have got this completely wrong.

  • Comment number 24.

    I too think that the biggest problem lies with the selectors. Australia potentially have a good test team, admittedly not a great one by their standards but good enough to certainly be competitive. Their problem has been too many players coming in and out of the side, the players coming in not given time, players given the boot bought back. The team, in my eyes, have been undermined by their own selectors, who have acted in fickle, knee-jerk manner.

    I still believe England would have won the Ashes but Oz would/should/could have made a much better fist of things and maybe shown their dwindling supporters a ray of light or at the very least a reason to stay in the stadium.

    But hey it was great viewing xD

  • Comment number 25.

    Name a captain Tom, and I'll find you some doubters. Surely the key is the team, and if it is a good one then finding the captain from amongst them is almost too easy. And there lies the rub, since Ponting is the natural leader of the current Australian bunch. Without him Australia's nagging hamstring is pulled until it is distorted, distressing and in need of urgent remedial treatment. But there isn't any time.

    So it is a hardly relevant to debate Michael Clarke's credentials. If Australia want to prevent the embarrassment of 3-1 then they have to make the best of whatever luck comes their way. Will England continue to dominate in Sydney or will there be another Perth like blemish as the team continues to hone the ruthless streak it found in T20 for test cricket?

    So the question shouldn't really be about Clarke at all. It should be about England's capacity for the kill. Bookmakers will give long odds against Australia salvaging something in Sydney but it is, after all, just one game.

  • Comment number 26.

    As Ive said on Tom's other blogs, the Perth Test was an anamoly, where the England batsman playing on a bouncy pitch that they have hardly played on anywhere else (inc. the tour match against WA where the wicket was made dead and slow purposely) were'nt able to handle it.

    Only one other pitch in the world is anything close to Perth and thats Durban.

    Again the Aussie tradition is to pick the best #11 then name the captain.

    The selectors have gone away from this tradition here as there is no way Clarke should have been picked to play in the 5th Test on form and current state of mind, evermind captain the team.

    Hussey should have been given the job for this Test. Then they could review where they wanted to go before the next Test series in August 2011.

    But - as an England supporter - I agree on the "can England kill off Australia" issue. I want to see if they have that killer instinct because they won't get close to #1 in the world without it.

  • Comment number 27.

    Wouldn't surprise me if Cricket Australia were courting Shane Warne behind the scenes - not for this series but the next and beyond. I think he might come back for the captaincy...and would be pretty darn good at it too. You need a real legend to sort those boys out!

  • Comment number 28.

    I haven't heard Hussey mentioned much? Surely as the in form guy (albeit recently), abundance of experience and a well spoken manner would have him as the prime candidate?

    The Clarke appointment smacks of Australian Cricket moving to fulfill a prophecy for the sake of it.

  • Comment number 29.

    My view is that your captain has to be credible and have respect from the rest of the team and that means having a track record as well as ability to score runs and captain a team.

    I can't believe that no-one has talked about the other Hussey - David!! I watched him a few times last year - he was the best batsman, quality fielder and captained the side (in 20/20 admittedly).

    Australia do need an opening batsman but they would definitely improve by having the Hussey brothers together

  • Comment number 30.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 31.

    clarke is being chosen as the stand in skipper purely and simply because he is the vice captain.
    cricket australia really have no choice other than to give him the captaincy - how could they bring in or select another player as captain and leave the vice captain in the side? it would make make a mockery of the squads hierarchy.
    its all being blown out of proportion anyway - the series is lost as far as they are concerned - they havent regained the ashes so a draw is the same as a defeat and even if they went and won the final test, the press and public wouldnt change their opinion of how bad the side is. clarke is stepping in for one single game and then they have 8 months to wait until they play another test - plenty of time to take stock of things and decide where the future leadership of the team lies.

  • Comment number 32.

    Perhaps this is a way to get rid of him in the long run. Once you are captain you either survive or disappear...

  • Comment number 33.

    @31........

    "cricket australia really have no choice other than to give him the captaincy - how could they bring in or select another player as captain and leave the vice captain in the side? it would make make a mockery of the squads hierarchy."

    No other choice?

    Why leave him in the side?

    He's been the second worst performing batsman (after Ponting) and should have been dropped on form and mental state.

  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 35.

    @33

    well you kind of missed the point and then answered it yourself there didnt you?

    they cant select clarke as captain if he is dropped can they? so - if they dont drop him he HAS to be captain in pontings absence because he is the current vice-captain. if they drop him THEN they can consider someone else but until they do that they have no choice.

  • Comment number 36.

    Just for the record, if I was picking the Aussie team for the 5th Test it would have been:

    Watson
    Marsh
    Khawaja
    M. Hussey (c)
    Ferguson
    D. Hussey
    Haddin
    Hauritz
    Siddle
    Cameron
    George

    12th - Smith

  • Comment number 37.

    Good and interesting article, didn't know all of Clarke's baggage. I'm still confused why Watson doesn't appear to be in the mix for captain is most peoples eyes. He's been pretty OK with the bat (for an Australian! haha), allrounder, should be there for a while and he is the one that seems to pop out most to talk to the press when the going gets tough. I think a bit of responsibility might have that 'Beckham' effect and make him a more mature player and he might start turning those 50s into 100s. My Australian friend is convinced the Oz selectors have a NSW bias making them overlook Cameron White. I'm very surprised (and glad!) he isn't currently in the team, where he could have been a captain possibility.
    Anyway, this last test is very important; we mustn't arrogantly count our chickens yet. Australians might well play with a new freedom with the bat, feeling the big pressure is now off and (despite retaining the Ashes) an Aussie win will be mighty deflating ...although it is hard to see it happening (but thought that in Perth!). Anyway C'mon England!!!

  • Comment number 38.

    As a Pom living in Brisbane, I think that Clark has long been regarded as a bit flaky, not someone you would want to rely on when the team is in trouble and little obvious leadership potential. I expect England to win convincingly in Sydney, there'll be major question marks against them if they don't. An issue here seems to be the increasing emphasis on the more lucrative short-form games, with few if any State-level players having developed the ability to grind out a big innings under pressure. It used to be the case that the Australia test team had enough batting talent that if 3-4 players failed, others would get the big scores required. That's no longer the case, they are over-dependent on Hussey and Haddin saving the day. They also have no bowler who can consistently apply pressure. England's success here is well-deserved, but not as sweet as if the Aussies were their usual combative and competitive selves.

  • Comment number 39.

    Does anybody also feel Andrew Symonds could have made a difference in this series?

    Steve Smith is the worst looking Test Cricket 'Batsmen' I've seen.

  • Comment number 40.

    Got to say I've never seen much in Clarke's presence on the field to suggest he'd make a good skipper, which may or may not reflect his off-field unpopularity. His recent batting record is also poor and unless he's one of the lucky few whose own form actually improves with captaincy then he could find his place in the side being even more under scrutiny. And there's always a problem with someone being the heir apparent for so long - just ask Gordon Brown.

    If they were picking a captain for the long term, then you might wonder who else besides Clarke would be in the frame. Watson might be a decent choice but is himself a bits and pieces player, in the team for want of a proper opener. Hussey is too old, Haddin has the burden of keeping wicket, and none of the others are experienced enough or sure enough of their place in the side. But this is a one-off appointment, at least until Punter announces his retirement. Much to be said for a bigger clear-out, including Clarke, in the hope of salvaging something from a wretched series, and maybe making Watson the skipper. But that would involve too much swallowing of pride I guess.

  • Comment number 41.

    Clarke has obviously got the captaincy as he has been vice captain for a while now but it's clearly the wrong decision.

    I'm not sure who should get the job but, as it's only for one test and the next scheduled series isn't until August, I think, then Hussey or Haddin should be given the job as Clarke, like Ponting, isn't worth his place in the team.

    Australia are clearly in turmoil but that is due to the selectors who have made some bizarre selections. Ponting clearly doesn't rate Hauritz but he should have been in the team from the start and Hughes is never a test opening batsman despite his two hundreds in South Africa.

    There is talent in Australia but they seem stuck in the past with some of their selections. Maybe this series will get them back to the 80's and they will have a clear out and start again. At the moment only Watson deserves his place in the batting order and the bowlers are all very hit and miss. I would imagine the squad that comes to England in 2013 wont include any of the current lot apart from Watson and Smith (who they obviously rate but can't bowl at the moment).

    As for England, over the top celebrations (we do live in the Rupert Murdoch tabloid/Sky world though so everything is better than it was, apparently)and talking of being number 1 in the world seems to mask the facts that India and South Africa (teams that England haven't won a series against recently, nor the Windies in the Caribbean for that matter despite England thinking they were the better team, as ever) are ranked higher and Pakistan did win a test in England in the summer, no doubt a mere blip.

    I heard Michael Vaughan, who talks the tabloid talk, stating that no team can ever expect to take 20 English wickets as the squad is so strong. Clearly Perth never happened !

    Maybe England should stop posturing and try and WIN the current series and any future ones as well before proclaiming themselves the best team in the world. Maybe they haven't realised that Australia are in decline and not top dogs nowadays. As for the "sprinkler dance", maturity isn't a strong point in the England squad by the looks of things. An embarrassment rather than something to be proud of.

    Winning, or retaining, the Ashes only makes you the best team of two not the best in the world.

  • Comment number 42.

    @15

    I take your point about the timing of this but I for one couldn't help smirk when I read this, it's typical KP. Every team needs their mix of characters and by now we all (including the whole England team) know which role KP plays, stuff like this from KP should be expected by now. Couple this with the pinch of salt I am now old enough to realise needs to be taken with most UK media coverage of our national teams (in all sports) and it's not really an issue for me. His point is 'technically' correct and it would be easy to edit what could have been a fairly harmless quote in the way we have seen.

    The most important thing is if it affects the team and given how grounded the leadership seems I doubt this is likely.

  • Comment number 43.

    #41 I dont think anyone in the England camp, is claiming or has ever claimed they are the number 1 team in the world. They have stated that it is their AIM to become number 1. Nothing wrong with that atall. It should be the aim of every test playing nation.

    God forbid if cricket became like the premiarmchariship where finishing 4th was seen as a "success".

    Flower and Strauss will keep this team grounded for Sydney I am sure.

    As for Clarke, he faces a massive challenge on Sunday, sink or swim.
    However, things cant get much worse so he should go in positive frame of mind.

  • Comment number 44.

    KP got rid of Moore's and we were able to get Flower before he was pinched by another Test country.

    Whether KP fell on his sword by his own volition or not - he is right - his action of moving to get Moore's sacked resulted in the Strauss and Flower combination coming together.

    .....and thats all that matters really.

  • Comment number 45.

    With only about 4 players settled in the side, Watson seems the only player who looks consistency good in test matcches.

  • Comment number 46.

    #42. Fair points you make (and I'm glad you're a Colly fan....unless your tag is ironic...one never knows on blogs).

    I've re-read the article and a part of me is critical of the BBC for presenting it in this way. But then, in fairness to the Beeb, the same story is all over the Aussie press like dodgy aftershave.

    Wonder whether Roebuck will be moved to deconstruct KP's psyche.

    As for Clarke and captaincy, I don't fully understand the rôle of the vice-captain. He can deputise if, say, the skip is off-field for any length. But normally vice-captains aren't captains elect. Tres was England's vice under Vaughan but not talked of as a FEC. Perhaps Aussie system differs.

    My long-winded point is that CA should not feel constrained to appoint Clarke.

    Tim Paine seems a viable candidate but he's a keeper and there's not much wrong with Haddin's game.

  • Comment number 47.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 48.

    Michael Clarke is too much of a Ricky Ponting clone. I would have gone left-field to Cameron White.. Yes he hasn't played much test cricket and his bowling isn't up to international standard, but the guy has proven to be a leader on the field and is a very good mid-order batsman. Furthermore, he is at the peak of his powers and would bring a fresh look to what is a very stale Australian test cricket outfit.

  • Comment number 49.

    couple of points raised, would like to add my bit
    I'm 30, can just remember 24 years ago, well done to the team enjoyed every minute of it. Make sure we beat them in their backyard boys.
    Ponting, really feel for the man. The manner of his demise(argueing with umpires) sparked of a desperate man out of form and lacking the quality of support from his players he had in his early tenure. Quality cricketer, average captain is how he will unfortunately be remembered.
    Clarke is the right choice to follow him as captain, yes has all the KP'esque about him, but is vice captain, if they dont pick him as captain you might as well not play him. If Strauss was to wake up with a bad back on day of match who'd be captain. Cook as official vice captain you have to follow the rules.
    We seem to forget that 2 years ago Strauss was a broken man out of form, nearly end of test career. Now the KP/Moores Ego debacle resulted in him being captain out of necessity rather than choice. He was my vote for sportsman of the year 2009, him and Flower rejuvinated a broken group into a team. Look at the clips, the sprinkler dance, they're is a real unity within the squad, something that helps you win matches. Maybe cricket australia have hit the jackpot, "resting" Ponting from more embarresment, throwing the ball to Clarke who might get lucky and win or Ricky might step back in to limelight next year.
    Sides really are not that far apart, if you look at how we have fielded especially catches its no wonder we have won matches, but also we do still have the ability to capitulate a little too easily. Thats not to say I havnt enjoyed watching the aussies do it too because I have, but neither do I think we are the best test side out there. However in another 2 years time I do think that nucleus of squad will still be around and we might be knocking on SA/Indias door.

  • Comment number 50.

    #47 Dear god, getting tedious now...

  • Comment number 51.

    It's like appointing KP England captain: great with the tabloids, will raise the profile of the game, but could end in tears. The similarities between the two are very strong.

    I was disappointed with the BBC Sport headline "Pietersen takes the credit..." It's a sub-editor who picks the headlines, but it gave a false impression of his comments. There is no question, England would never have achieved this success with Peter Moores. There is also no question that having a larger than life figure like KP as captain was never going to work in the long term (Ian Botham lasted a year and was destroyed by the very same press that howled for his promotion); Andrew Strauss was always likely to get more from him in the long term.

  • Comment number 52.

    Clarke is a talented player out of form, it happens and he'll bounce back. As someone else has stated, he has to be named Captain for the test in Sydney as he is vice-captain. While some people may dislike him personally or feel his form doesn't justify his elevation, that is irrelevant in this, he's only standing in for Ponting for now. As it is, I know little of his tactical nous or cricketing ethos, from what I have seen of him as a batsman I have been impressed on the whole.

    Shaun Marsh and Callum Ferguson are great calls by the way on current form, as would be Andrew McDonald - who's also a decent bowler. I've always liked Klinger too, but he's had a patchy season. It'll be interesting to see how they approach this test.

    On Ponting, can't believe someone on here said they hope it's the last they see of him. On his day he's one of the most fantastic batsmen to watch. They need to take him away from the new ball a bit I think, move him to 5 maybe, when he comes back. Here's hoping he can continue at the top level, as captain or otherwise.

    Looking for something from Collingwood in this game, Trott and Cook thus far though have looked imperious. Superb stuff.

  • Comment number 53.

    post 30 and 47 just shows that you have no knowledge or understanding about cricket and that your posts throughout this ashes series are just trying to wind people u...as i said before lease comment on some thing that you do know...which is actually nothing

  • Comment number 54.

    @20
    I knew they dont have langer or hayden but open with a allrounder in a test match. I think its not a good idea. Opening in a test match is purely a top class batsman business.

  • Comment number 55.

    Do I really care who Australia pick as captain? Do I really care that Michael Clarke is woefully out of form? Do I really care that Australia are going through their worse slump in years? The answer to all of the above is a resounding NO. Looking forward to a win in Sydney, 3-1 to the Eng-er-land and long may our dominance of the Aussies continue, hopefully for at least 20 years.

  • Comment number 56.

    @46

    I am proud to say I am a true fan of Collingwood. His double century in Adelaide four years ago caught my eye, specifically the primeval roar he let out as he smacked the ball back over the bowlers head to pass 200. I admire his grit and determination and I personally think this count for a lot. True, he hasn't performed with the bat this series but his role in the team is pretty obvious. I won't spell it out, it's been done plenty of times before! And that catch in Perth to dismiss Ponting! I'm sure he's coming to the end of his career so I hope he scores big in Sydney.

    Going back to the KP story. However he meant it, it was always going to make headlines all over the press. Gotta love him.

    Incidently, I've been desperately trying to find footage of Colly's double century in Adelaide - if anyone can help?

  • Comment number 57.

    greetings from fortress sydney,

    boy can any other major city burn 5 million bucks in 30mins like sydney does with fireworks on new yrs eve! we are the masters, we are the best in the world!! totally greenhouse friendly, i didn't see any smoke! no! none at all!!

    back to less important issue's, heck! what other choice did "the tin man", "scarecrow" and "lion" have in picking who was to lead the pack in the battle for OZ other than "toto", "scooby doo" or "pup" or what other name you wanna give clarkey!

    sadly the aussie cricket gene pool has hit rock bottom with the absence of any bold selections and the question now is! is clarkey potentially the new kim hughes!!
    clearly the guys mind is weighed down by squillion dollar endorsements
    and i'm not surprised he can barely carry and swing the weight of a piece of willow anymore let alone focus on those demonic pommie fast bowlers 22 yards away. sorry i forgot to mention "the chameleon" swanny aka 'merlin the magician" of his generation!!
    anyway the toss could be a tad important on monday as showers are forecast mon/tues/wed( if the game goes that long)

  • Comment number 58.

    #50. Isn't it ever.

  • Comment number 59.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 60.

    #56. sorry, I'm struggling to let this go. It's like Hitler taking credit for the creation of Israel.

  • Comment number 61.

    Clarke will have his work cut out on Monday, that's for sure. He's been waiting in the wings for so long, and finally gets his chance just as England seal the Ashes after a thumping defeat and Australia are forced to parachute in a rookie No. 3.

    He might make a fist of it, but I don't see it happening. If one of the Aus openers fail (not an unlikely scenario, it has to be said) it will probably be Mike Hussey striding to the wicket in short order again after Khawaja and Clarke implode.

    Nothing I've seen of Clarke makes me think he's captain material. Which can only be good news for England!

    And I for one am so glad we got rid of Moores as coach and KP as captain. It meant that the ECB were pretty much forced to do the right thing and promote the two Andys. I shudder to think of the mess we'd be in under Peter Moores now. We wouldn't be celebrating the retention of the Ashes Down Under, that's for sure.

  • Comment number 62.

    It really would be better if people stopped feeding the troll and nibbling at his bait. It spoils an otherwise very pleasant flow of conversation.

  • Comment number 63.

    Clarke is seen by most Australians as a girleyman metrosexual wuss. He is also a NSW player which never goes down that well outside that state ( Although to be fair relatively few junior sportsmen with choices choose cricket to be their sport of choice outside NSW such is the dominance of AFL) The tattoos don't help either ...maybe you can get away with them being a roughnut of a fast bowler but not as the Captain of Australia
    Still he now has his chance . I'd say many Australians would wish him to do well ( ie win ) but somehow convince everyone that he is not captaincy material ( which I admit is not really possible
    I'd choose Cameron White as Ponting's successor but it ain't gunna happen

  • Comment number 64.

  • Comment number 65.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 66.

    Just noticed this in one of the Aussie papers on how they view Clarke:

    http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/sport/the-ashes/big-risk-to-pick-yuppie-michael-clarke/story-fn67x7ne-1225979024765

    Mr 15 per cent says it all, really...

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    Don't feed the troll...

  • Comment number 69.

    #62 Spot on. It's become very boring now.

    Re Clarke - they had no choice. Appointing him for this test means nothing, it's a one-off. But appointing somebody else over him would mean everything, and they simply don't have any obvious candidate to do that with. They have to hedge their bets right now - maybe they could get some advice from the Pakistanis...;-)

    And if I was picking the Aussie team? Well I'd write in Watson, Hussey, Haddin, possibly Siddle for effort on a good day, then go down the pub, because after that it doesn't really seem to make much difference does it!

  • Comment number 70.

    #65

    Lets see shall we:

    In South Africa this time last year he saved us TWICE and also scored a crucial 91 to help win the second test.
    He scored 145 and 80 in the summer.
    He may not be the most elegant player but he brings an extra dimension to the team. He is one of few players who can just bat and bat.
    Also great fielder and useful bowler

    On another not, please read my blog where I've done a 2010 sports review. You can vote for your favourite moment and the best sportsmen of the year: http://jamesheneghan.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 71.

    27. At 11:36am on 31 Dec 2010, DiscoStew wrote:
    Wouldn't surprise me if Cricket Australia were courting Shane Warne behind the scenes - not for this series but the next and beyond. I think he might come back for the captaincy...and would be pretty darn good at it too. You need a real legend to sort those boys out!

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    I said this on the other thread, but it deserves repeating:

    Good as he undoubtedly was as a bowler, Shane Warne will not want to subject his wicket tally to the decision review system in use today. Even the captaincy of Australia will not tempt him back to test cricket whilst that system is in use; you can con the on-field umpire but not the TV replays. There seems little choice for CA but to appoint Clarke as interim captain in Ponting's absence. The real question of long term captaincy will need to be addressed if/when Ponting decides to hang up his baggy green. I can't see anyone suitable within the current test squad, either by reason of age or talent, so they will have to look outside. If they are sober when they make the decision they should pick White - if they are still hungover they will probably stick with Clarke. Either way, their problems with captaincy are only the start of issues they need to address. All record breaking runs in sport end in tears.

  • Comment number 72.

    Also Collingwood led England to our first EVER ICC World Cup and has now won 3 Ashes! Not a coincidence

  • Comment number 73.

    #71 - very good points, both about Warne and the mess that Aus find themselves in as regards long-term captaincy options.

    I've always been of the opinion that Warne's bowling talent, while prodigious, was undoubtedly bolstered by his continual harassment of the umpires.

  • Comment number 74.

    The word is that Shane Warne *would* be willing to come back, if offered the captaincy, but it is a move that would smack of desperation. With no Tests for 8 months the whole question is fairly irrelevant for now anyway: even Shane Warne is not Peter Pan and maybe by August next year he would be having second thoughts anyway.

    Again, the parallel is with KP getting the captaincy in 2008... at the time there was simply no one else who was a credible choice but, by the end of the year, that was no longer the case.

  • Comment number 75.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 76.

    Stagazer at 74 wrote:

    Again, the parallel is with KP getting the captaincy in 2008... at the time there was simply no one else who was a credible choice but, by the end of the year, that was no longer the case.

    ++++++++++++++++++++=

    Simply not true about KP. Strauss should have been the given the captaincy for the 06/07 ashes after he had led England to a home win against Pakistan. (He is probably glad now that he wasn't). Awarding it to Flintoff was a serious mistake, and it was compounded by then appointing KP. Being a seriously good player does not make you an automatically good skipper. To the extent that the captaincy was only belatedly awarded to Strauss after his own brief tenure ended, KP is correct in what he has been saying in the media: without Strauss at the helm we would not be where we are today.

  • Comment number 77.

    Here's some FACTS for you Papa Shango:

    - England are ranked third in the World, above Australia.
    - England have won three out of the last four Ashes series.
    - Graeme Swann is ranked 2nd bowler in the World
    - Paul Collingwood averages above 40 in test cricket and led England to first ever ICC trophy
    - James Anderson is ranked the fifth best bowler in the world, above any Australians
    - Jonathan Trott is ranked third best batsmen in the world, again above any Australian
    - ENGLAND HAVE JUST RETAINED THE ASHES AFTER BATTERING AUSTRALIA BY AN INNINGS TWICE IN ONE SERIES!

  • Comment number 78.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 79.

    Lets give Clarke a chance as captain of Australia and lets see if he is any better than Pointing as captain.

  • Comment number 80.

    Ok, just answer me this Papa truthfully. Why do you put England down so much is you are an England fan? Aren't you happy we won the Ashes? Or are you just trying to win everyone up? (which you have done quite well)

  • Comment number 81.

    well av been reeding theez posts now for all the test matches, and am gunna tell you lot summert, thet papa kid duz no wat eez talkin about, e knows ow to get numptys goin so in my book eez ok. but best ov all e duz no about cricket.so leeve im alone and wise up.

  • Comment number 82.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 83.

    Ok, we play India in the summer so if we beat them then, will you praise the team more whoevers playing?

  • Comment number 84.

    @64

    Thank you! You've made my Christmas.

    As for Clarke, surely England's selection policy is a prime example of how rewarding good players who are out of form with consitent selection pays off? Up until this series if you'd asked me who Alastair Cook was I would have replied 'not Marcus Trescothick'.

    I don't know much about Clarke but I've seen and heard enough to know he is regarded as a great player and should come good with the bat again. As a captain? Only time will tell. If he is comparable to KP in personality then I have to say I was never totally at ease with KP as our captain but then I'm not a high risk kinda guy.

  • Comment number 85.

    If your Collysbiggestfan then I'm Collyssecondbiggest fan! Class player

  • Comment number 86.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 87.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 88.

    Graeme Swann is a good spin bowler, in fact he's the best spin bowler in the world! FACT
    And Anderson has proved he can bowl on all surfaces

  • Comment number 89.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 90.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 91.

    #64
    collingwood at Adelade 2006, its neerly 2011 na pal!
    av got a foto of mi wife in 1978, but a wunt av 1 of er na!
    collingwood to owd pal.

  • Comment number 92.

    innit mate! I cant stand ppl who tlk like dis man!

    Average? He's had a good series and even if he hadn't it doesn't prove he's average. He's taken 124 wickets in 27 matches at an average of 27. That is not average

  • Comment number 93.

    Odd that Clarke does not demand his match winning Blues team mate Hauritz back in the side to handle the spin and batting all rounder on his home ground. Bring in two men not afraid to take on England´s bowlers - David Hussey as well as Khawaja to replace Hughes and Ponting. Ponting seems to have personal issues with Hauritz that dont apply now Clarke is in charge.
    However, a line up which includes Beer,Clarke,Hughes and Smith on the surface does appear to offer England 4 obvious out -of- form weak links to attack and sabotages Australia´s chance of victory at the SCG.

  • Comment number 94.

    92
    an a bet tha stoppin in tonite arnt tha?

  • Comment number 95.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 96.

    I can't even understand what that says?

  • Comment number 97.

    90. At 3:45pm on 31 Dec 2010, papa shango always right wrote:
    Swann's average this series is 37!! A fact that proves he is average.

    ---

    Let's see how that compares to other spinners in Australia over the past 5 years:

    http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?bowling_pacespin=2;class=1;filter=advanced;host=2;orderby=bowling_average;qualmin1=5;qualval1=wickets;spanmax1=31+Dec+2010;spanmin1=31+Dec+2005;spanval1=span;template=results;type=bowling

    Only Hauritz averaged sub-30. Swann is behind Hauritz, Warne, Kumble and Benn. He is ahead of Panesar, Harris, Vettori, Singh and Kaneria.

    So 37 isn't too bad. In fact, it's better (albeit marginally in some cases) than the likes of Vettori, Panesar and Singh who you claim to be better than Swann.

  • Comment number 98.

    Seriously, Papa Shango, who do you honestly think you are??? From, what I and everyone else on these forums says has way more respect than the drivel you speak. What is it you quote? FACTS? Well let me repeat some of your facts on here where you have managed to have a go at everyone else....


    210. At 7:55pm on 27 Dec 2010, papa shango always right wrote:
    #206 feel free to take the rise, just check out my predictions & realise I do talk sense.
    203. At 7:36pm on 27 Dec 2010, papa shango always right wrote:
    Writing off Ponting will come back to haunt you tomorrow when you wake up & he is 150 not out, with them closing in on a lead. I have been right all through this series, ignore me at your peril.

    Let's not forget with Collingwood in the side we're 1 wicket down already!!
    144. At 5:03pm on 27 Dec 2010, papa shango always right wrote:
    #139 Oz won't save this game. They'll win it.


    If I may point out, well I'm going to anyway, Ricky Ponting scored diddly. Not the 150 you quoted, therefore, your FACT is wrong.
    Secondly, Oz did not win the game, they lost it quite miserably, and would probably have admitted it themselves after day 2. That is a FACT.

    So next time you want to talk facts, please get them straight before spouting trash. And while we're on the subject, if you're so well informed, why don't you tell us your cricketing experience. One assumes you must have been a previous test captain of some repute.

  • Comment number 99.

    In Sub-continent? He has played 2 tests in the sub-continent, what do you say to that?

    Also he has played: 9 tests against Australia, 2 against India, 4 against South Africa and 4 against Pakistan - hardly poor teams, are they? As you said South Africa and India are the best teams in the world, right?

  • Comment number 100.

    And another thread descends into tedium.

 

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