Clarke to lead the way against world champion Proteas

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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    Score a truckload of runs, lead with imagination, win a World Cup, stand tall in the wake of a mate's death... Yeah, Michael Clarke was a terrible captain. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

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    Tomorrow’s first Test at the Gabba sees the start of cricket’s world heavyweight championship. Over the next three weeks – in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth – the coveted world number ranking one will be decided.

    Should the incumbent, South Africa come out on top it will further vindicate its recent dominance of the longer form of the game.

    However, should the underdog get up, it will be an enormous feather in the cap of Australian cricket and, in particular, current captain Michael Clarke.

    Between January 2007 and January 2009, Ricky Ponting’s all-conquering Test team, one of the most powerful outfits in cricket history, was almost totally dismantled.

    During that period Australian cricket bade farewell to some of its most iconic Test stars in Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist.

    It also witnessed the end of the Test careers of some other pretty handy players including the likes of Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Stuart MacGill and Brett Lee.

    To look at it another way, in May 2008 when he made his Test debut, Brad Haddin was the 400th player to be accorded the honour of a baggy green.

    Tomorrow, Rob Quiney will be the country’s 429th Test player.

    That represents 29 players being selected to debut for Australia in the space of the past four-and-a-half years.

    Prior to Haddin’s debut, going back to Test player number 371, Andy Bichel, who debuted in January 1997, meant that that cluster of 29 players debuted over a period of 11 years.

    It gives a very clear example of the turmoil that Australian cricket has undergone in the past four years.

    When Ricky Ponting stood down as Test captain in March last year, Australia (100 points) was fifth in the world behind England (125), South Africa (118), India (117) and Sri Lanka (108).

    It was Australia’s lowest point – both by placing and points – for well over a decade.
    Enter Michael Clarke.

    Having been Ponting’s long term deputy, and one-day skipper, he was the obvious choice to be elevated to the top job.

    Many fans however, felt a deal of unease at Clarke being given the reins of the country’s most high profile team.

    For the traditionalists, many of whom saw the role as second only to the PM in national importance, couldn’t quite get their head around Clarke as Test captain.

    On the field, Clarke had done little wrong to that point of time.

    At the time he was anointed by the selectors as Test skipper, he had led Australia in 25 ODIs for a winning record of 74%, just behind the most successful ODI captain of all-time, West Indian Clive Lloyd (76%).

    It underlined that he had the goods to be a leader.

    However, it was off the field that he seemed to draw the ire of the traditional Australian fan.

    He was the first leader who hailed from the Gen Y era and many fans found that a bitter pill to swallow.

    He displayed traits that prickled some of the establishment.

    He had peroxide hair, a diamond stud in the ear and a canvas of tattoos.

    Those traits had the rusted on Test traditionalists shaking their heads – how could an Australian skipper have such a persona?

    They had their firm ideas as to what a Test leader should look like – tough as teak, no bling, no flashiness, just straight down the middle.

    Imagine Ponting with an earring; Steve Waugh with dyed hair; Ian Chappell or Allan Border with an ear stud.

    And then, of course, was his highly publicized and chronicled private life.

    Name another skipper who was photographed incessantly with a model on his arm at restaurant openings and cocktail parties?

    It was sacrilegious to consider the Test captaincy resting on such a man’s shoulders.
    Fast forward though to today.

    Clarke has shown himself to be a highly successful and innovative Test captain.

    He has elevated Australia to number three in the world and within a series win of reclaiming top spot – something few would have considered possible early last year.

    His winning percentage through his first 15 matches as the helm is 60%.

    He has shown he is his own man and has often shown a flare that many felt was lacking during the Ponting and Waugh reins.

    Like Mark Taylor, he often rolls the dice and acts on instinct.

    Think of his use of Mike Hussey with the ball and the crucial wickets he has snared or throwing the ball to David Warner at the Gabba against New Zealand last year where he could have had a wicket first ball save a dropped catch.

    Clarke used part-time leg-spinner Warner at the bowling crease in each of the West Indies Tests earlier this year where he claimed three wickets at 31 – would Ponting have done likewise?

    Clarke’s exploits with the bat last summer, highlighted by 329no in Sydney and 210 in Adelaide, saw him take the mantle as the team’s premier batsman.

    Safe to say, Michael Clarke has silenced the naysayers over the past 18 months.

    He has proven he is the man for the job and the man for the time.

    The defence rests.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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    The Crowd Says (30)

    • Columnist

      November 8th 2012 @ 8:40am
      Brett McKay said | November 8th 2012 @ 8:40am | ! Report

      Glenn, you mentioned the 29 debutants since Brad Haddin in 2008, and it certainly tells a tale of where Australian cricket has been in recent years, but you get just as big a picture if you head the other way.

      Gavin Robinson won Baggy Green no.375 in Chennai way back in 1997/98. So while it took only four years to hand out 25 more caps after 400, it took more than ten years to tally the 25 previous. That’s prolonged stability right there.

      Completely agree with your thoughts on Michael Clarke though. Any criticisms that still linger are pretty much superficial these days, as they always wee probably..

      • Columnist

        November 8th 2012 @ 9:40am
        Glenn Mitchell said | November 8th 2012 @ 9:40am | ! Report

        Hi Brett, I made that point in the article. The previous 29 debuts prior to Haddin took 11 years. Gives a real indication of the degree of change of late.

    • November 8th 2012 @ 9:10am
      Dan said | November 8th 2012 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      He’s a bloody good captain that’s for sure

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      • November 8th 2012 @ 1:34pm
        Methusalah said | November 8th 2012 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

        Yep, leading the way alright. Right down at 3rd or 4th drop.

        He is there to pick off the exhausted bowlers with no sheen left on the ball.

        Take the lead and bat at first drop. Any wonder most of his present and past team mates don’t rate him.

        • November 8th 2012 @ 2:49pm
          josh said | November 8th 2012 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

          Must be like Steve Waugh and Allan Border, the bludgers.

        • November 8th 2012 @ 4:09pm
          geno said | November 8th 2012 @ 4:09pm | ! Report

          Mate where did Allan Border, or Steve Waugh bat?

          Being captain doesn’t mean you have to bat at 3!

    • November 8th 2012 @ 9:26am
      Chop said | November 8th 2012 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      Michael Clarke has certainly proven himself to be a better captain than I expected and I’m glad to be proven wrong. It’s going to be even more important that he step up with the bat in this series. After a few domestic games only he and Ponting have really shown any form.

      It’s interesting after all that stability there’s always speculation as to the make up of each test team, for 10 years or so it was just a matter of expecting an unchanged side.

      Clarke has definitely had more obstacles in his tenure than Waugh or Ponting even allowing for the resignations of McGrath, Warne, Hayden and the rest.

      It would be great to hear you back on the ABC broadcast Glenn, any chance of that during the summer?

      • Columnist

        November 8th 2012 @ 9:51am
        Glenn Mitchell said | November 8th 2012 @ 9:51am | ! Report

        Having too much fun and enjoyment nowadays. But will be following the series closely. Hopefully it will live up to a ‘heavyweight’ clash.

        • November 8th 2012 @ 11:56am
          rl said | November 8th 2012 @ 11:56am | ! Report

          more enjoyment than working on air with Skull?

          • Columnist

            November 8th 2012 @ 12:13pm
            Glenn Mitchell said | November 8th 2012 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

            I certainly miss ‘sparring’ with the Great Man. But across the board, given all I have been through, I would rather be where I am now. But, I will be listening to Mr O’Keeffe over the summer. How could you not!!!

            • November 8th 2012 @ 12:33pm
              rl said | November 8th 2012 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

              Great to have you on The Roar Glenn! Look forward to more contributions over the summer. And agree with your thoughts on Clarke – I was a doubter, but he certainly seems to have grown into the role. And unlike Captains of recent past, he at least makes it look like its fun to play! (remember when cricket used to be a game?)

    • November 8th 2012 @ 10:04am
      jameswm said | November 8th 2012 @ 10:04am | ! Report

      Clarke has the chance to take a big step up as a captain. He couldn’t really have done more so far, and in difficult circumstances.

      1-2 tons and strong captaincy, and he could really be on his way to something.

    • November 8th 2012 @ 12:22pm
      Brendon said | November 8th 2012 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

      Peoples dislike of Clarke being appointed captain showed their own prejudices and narrow minded view of sport than any cricket intelligence.

      The generational thing with Clarke and “traditional” cricket fans (ie baby boomers and older, Gen X was split on Clarke) alluded to by Glenn has been played out many times before in cricket and will be played out again in the future.

      • November 8th 2012 @ 2:12pm
        jameswm said | November 8th 2012 @ 2:12pm | ! Report

        Not solely Brendon. A few poeple thought he hadn’t earned it, that he’d been earmarked early on and got a head start.

    • November 8th 2012 @ 12:30pm
      Tim said | November 8th 2012 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

      Can see the Saffers dismantling Aus quite easily this series. Expecting lots of runs from Kallis.

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