As you start thinking about Michael Clarke’s prospects in the upcoming Ashes, it is hard not to find clarity in the Disney’s remake of the iconic Lone Ranger tale.
Clarke’s been cast as a virtual outcast with both the men who should be backing him and his upcoming foes seemingly sharing a similar target on his head, and even the Gods forsaking him with the flaring of his chronic back issue.
In my mind the only real issue is his back ailment that seems to have the unpredictability of a cobra and strikes him when he least expects it.
If he is fit, or for that fact fit enough, you can feel assured that he will become such a factor that he might get blamed for the breakdown of not one, but two separate countries’ sporting cultures.
I say this for he has an aura or for want of a better word, a Border-ism when put in irreconcilable situations with his centre point being his mental strength.
Which in a sense is such an irony with him being such a pretty boy metro-sexual with the matching effeminate voice, but my word is he is such a tough, unbreakable entity when faced by real fire.
We have seen that from with his own camp lately with him being widely labelled as a hatchet man with the blood of Andrew Symonds, Simon Katich and Mike Hussey on his hands and recently, widely blamed for the appalling culture in the current Aussie team.
The truth of this matter is the fact that he is probably the root cause of the issue, for he is such an atypical lone wolf that has been cast in a position where he has to tend for others. Clarke has a selfish being, which precludes the ‘tendering to others’ needs or parenting of their flaws, and he is very much his way or the highway with a vengeful bite.
So while this blow-up before the main event might be hurtful enough to distract most others and certainly demotivate them from achieving results, with Clarke, it will invariably add fuel to his jets. His relentless one mindedness will assure this.
As for the main event, for it to be dramatic, is a chance for Ashes immortality for him.
To grasp this, he will have to turn around a glaring characteristic of his career that has seen him not as mighty away from home, with career splits of 64.93 at home and 41.97 away, including an English average of 46.10. These figures are given greater strength by the fact that for the most part, they were achieved when he was supported by a much stronger batting line-up. Which means he could be shielded from the spotlight whereas in this series, with the rest of the batting being diabolical, to be kind, he will become front row centre.
In this series, he needs, if anything, to grab more focus if he is to succeed by batting in the number three position. People will dispute this by his immense success at five, but fail to see Mike Hussey’s as well as others’ presence in this success, with them being perfect foils for Clarke’s game by being expert accumulators as well as high grade players of spin. If he stays at five in this series, the English will just isolate him in the knowledge that the rest of the batsmen struggle with the subtleties of batting that cut bowling attacks deep.
At three he can assume a control and assure he has a say in adding his positivity of mind and in style of play to the top order that is riddled with self doubts. The associated effect of this would be to engender some belief in the others in the line-up which so obviously struggles with the intrinsic need to such an extent that they are even paralysed from trying a new approach. You saw Clarke’s effect on Ed Cowan during his 136 against a Steyn-led-South Africa in Brisbane where the usually reserved and meek Cowan looked brimmed with confidence due to Clarke’s company.
Diverting from his effect on others, it is a Captain Obvious that the English have the bowlers, the conditions and the master tactician in Flower to neutralise him. But as Clarke showed in one of the best innings in the history of the game in his 151 in Capetown against a better attack and in treacherous conditions, he is a master of any challenge.
Clarke’s presence is necessary at the top of the order, whether it be in taking on the white hot form of James Anderson at present and dealing a few blows to his confidence or being set when Graeme Swann comes on and taking him to the cleaners as Clarke invariably does with spinners. It would have a decisive effect on a series where 300 could be viewed as a fine team total.
Set the video to record Australia, for I am near certain that the Pup will have plenty of bite in the Ashes.