Michael Clarke’s magnificent double-hundred on the first day at Adelaide was less about dominance, than it was about grabbing the initiative by playing attacking cricket.
Given the ebb and flow that is test cricket, the Australian skipper’s batsmanship shows why batsmen like Clarke are important to test cricket.
There is less need today for the pedantic-Boycott-type innings’ (with all due respect to Boycs) because in an era where there is pressure on the (Test) game to evolve, to keep the turnstiles clicking, in the face of the onslaught from T20, (and who knows what else in the future – night Tests?) underlines why quick-scorers in the five-day version are so important for the game.
Dazzler is the best way to describe Clarke, in my opinion.
Clarke’s, of course, is not a gung-ho approach. His innings’ for the most, is punctuated with as commentators would put it, “proper cricket shots”. Rarely a rash or silly stroke in his armoury, despite his attacking qualities.
Why I say this is that often batsmen, who are inclined to attack on instinct, will try the unorthodox – and eventually get out to a silly stroke. Not Clarke. I would pay a lot of money to watch this man bat on the slowest of days.
In the mould of Clarke, Graeme Pollock comes to mind too. Back in the day, during what was known as the Castle Cup cricket league in South Africa fans, even teachers, used to leave their workplaces early, upon hearing that the “Prince of St George’s Park” was coming in to bat. So intense was Pollock’s influence on the game, that fans would flock to the ground – even if his team, the-then Eastern Province outfit was losing. It was all about coming to watch the great left-hander bat.
His approach was not one of power, but pure elegance, poetry in motion on a cricket field and tearing the best of attacks to shreds.
Clarke’s the same too. He is always looking to attack, his fancy footwork, especially to the spinners, a joy to watch. Watching Clarke, even when he is playing and missing – is like watching a highlights reel.
So fluid and fluent, you never tire of watching him go about his work at the crease. Australia we know some seasons back now, when the possibility was still a distant dream for test cricket, raised their game and began scoring at four to the over. Of course then they had the likes of Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden in their team.
Then the others test nations followed their example, or at least tried.
So now we have five runs an over scored in a day … and over a double century on the first day of a test, by one team? If one of your mates were on some remote island, with no television, radio or any other technology at his disposal and you relate to him the events of Adelaide on the first day’s play, his retort would possibly be: “You’ve gotta be kidding me”.
Of course these types of run rates will never be consistently achieved, but if they come up once or twice in a season, fans will keep flocking to test cricket, despite the pull of the T20 circus.
If the ICC can’t make Test cricket more innovative and exciting for the youngest of fans – it’s time the cricketers do.
Hats off to ‘Pup’ – he’s gone up another couple of notches in my book.
And here’s my list of test cricket’s most attacking batsmen past and present; and I am going to play it safe by adding, not necessarily in that order.
AB De Villiers