Can Clarke lead Australia to No.1 ranking in Tests?
Australia will need Michael Clarke to have a big series to have any chance of winning back the Ashes. AP Photo/Rob Griffith
By defeating England at Lord’s on Monday, South Africa has reached the top ranking in Test cricket and Australia has slipped from no.2 to no.3 behind England.
Will Australia reach the top by 2012 end? Beating South Africa in Australia this November – December will go a long way to winning back the ranking.
Will Michael Clarke lead the lackluster Aussies back to the days when they were almost invincible from 1995 to 2007 under Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting?
Since taking over from Ponting in 2011, Clarke has won nine out of 15 Tests captained, losing three, with three drawn.
He became the 43rd player to captain Australia in Tests, replacing an injured Ponting in the final Ashes Test in Sydney in January 2011.
Australia lost the Test by an innings.
A terrible start, but by the time he was handed the captaincy Australia had already lost the Ashes. Subsequently, his report card as the Aussie leader in Tests reads well: ranging from A- to B+.
Under him Australia beat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka 1-0 with two Tests drawn, drew an exciting series in South Africa 1-all and subsequently drew with New Zealand 1-all in Australia.
Then he reached his peak as both captain and batsman against the then highly ranked India, whitewashing them 4-0 in 2011-12 and amassing 626 runs at 125.20, climaxing with an unbeaten and stupendous 329 in the second Test in Sydney.
He kept up the good work in the West Indies winning the 3-Test series 2-0. Thus Australia has not lost a series under him, ignoring the final Ashes Test in 2011 when he was only a replacement skipper.
Clarke’s nine wins in 15 Tests so far works out at a victory rate of 60 percent. How does that compare with other Australian skippers since 1950s?
Steve Waugh leads with 72% (41 wins out of 57 captained), Ponting 62% (48 /77), Clarke 60%, Mark Taylor 52% (26/50), Ian Chappell 50% (15/30), Greg Chappell 44% (21/48), Richie Benaud 43% (12/28), Bill Lawry 36% (9/25), Allan Border 34% (32/93), Bob Simpson 31% (12/39) and Kim Hughes way down at 14% (4/28).
Both Benaud and Border were involved in a tied Test each.
Ponting has won the most number of Tests, 48, in Test history and till last week Border had captained most Tests, 93. Now South Africa’s Graeme Smith has taken over with 94 Tests captained.
After the recent victory over England at Lord’s, he has won 44 Tests, a win percent of 47%.
Steve Waugh’s win percentage of 72 is the highest in Test annals among those who have captained more than 25 Tests.
Now zooming on to Clarke: How will Australia under him go in months to come starting with the one-day series against Pakistan in UAE in August-September, then in the home Test series against strong opponents South Africa and Sri Lanka and more importantly in the Ashes in England?
The Australian team looks in disarray with no batsman dominating, fast bowlers struggling and a spinner of Test class almost non-existent. Too many bronze medalists but hardly a gold medalist in sight.
Australia was in a similar position when Border had taken over as leader and converted a losing team into winners.
Now let’s look at the contenders for 2012-13:
Opening batsmen David Warner, Shane Watson and wicket-keeper Matthew Wade have been inconsistent.
Will Ponting continue or retire like the other two Indian greats Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman? Same question for Michael Hussey. But no new batsmen of the caliber of Ponting and Hussey are knocking on the door.
It is a do-or-die season for quickie Mitchell Johnson. If he does not fire in the UAE in the one-day series against Pakistan in August-September, the selectors will have to fire him.
Australia’s hopes are on two young fast bowlers James Pattinson and Pat Cummins but they break down too often.
Tough times ahead for captain Clarke.
What do you think, Roarers? Can he retain the top ranking for Australia?
Kersi is an author of 13 cricket books including The Waugh Twins, Cricket's Great All-rounders,Six Appeal and Nervous Nineties. He writes regularly for Inside Cricket and other publications. He has recently finished his new book on Cricket's Conflicts and Controversies, with a foreword by Greg Chappell.
Listen to Glenn Mitchell's preview of the Third Ashes Test in Perth at the WACA ground: