Ashes series: Clarke’s legacy is on the line

Joe Karsay Columnist

By Joe Karsay, Joe Karsay is a Roar Expert

 , , ,

90 Have your say

    Michael Clarke's performance was bad, but was it bad enough to cancel his citizenship? (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    Related coverage

    Every Ashes series is important but the one that kicks off in Brisbane next week will be defining. If Australia lose it will be our fourth straight Ashes series loss.

    This is a catastrophe we have not witnessed since the 1800s.

    On a personal level, it will be defining for the much maligned Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke.

    Regardless of the fact that he inherited a team in decline, his legacy will be forever tainted by a fourth-straight series loss.

    While there have been persistent murmurs about Clarke not being suited to leadership due to his selfish and self-obsessed ‘gen-y’ approach, never has it been put more into the mainstream discourse than by his predecessor Ricky Ponting and former teammate Michael Hussey in their recent books.

    The criticisms emanating from these two were stinging, not so much for what was said but for who was saying it.

    Two more committed and loyal ‘team men’ you will not find.

    To add fuel to the fire, Cricket Australia chairman Wally Edwards reminded us recently what a huge mistake it was to drop Simon Katich.

    I have always argued that the sacking of Simon Katich was Clarke’s first failure as captain.

    Given the fact he had been in great form in the previous twelve months, the only logical explanation for Katich’s sacking was that it was reprisal from Clarke for the infamous SCG incident.

    Katich confirmed as much when he commented at the time that he did not expect to be recalled as long as Clarke was captain. From that point on, I questioned whether Clarke would put the team above himself.

    The irony of Ponting being the man to put Clarke’s leadership qualities under scrutiny is that he too was heavily criticised as leader.

    Unlike Clarke who has not had the cattle, Ponting lost an Ashes series with a side that included, among others, Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist. Ponting got key tactical calls wrong and let games drift too often over his tenure.

    In contrast, Clarke is a sharp and creative tactician but has not been able to put his stamp on the culture of the side.

    Both men have led by example with the bat. In fact, each has just about been the best batsman of his respective generation.

    This led me to question whether we are picking our best batsman as captain regardless of whether they are suited to leadership.

    It had worked in the past (Chappel, Border, Taylor, Waugh, etc.) but perhaps we need a new approach.

    In the Argus Review and all the soul searching we have done over the last few years, the one issue that has not been dealt with is how we chose our captains. If it agreed that the Test captain is the single most important appointment in a national set up, due to the way on-field decisions can shape the outcome of games, surely it deserves more forethought?

    And yet, Ponting and Clarke seemed to be automatic selections because they were the prodigal son who had spent a long time in the Test team before being promoted to vice captain and then inevitably captain.

    But I would argue that each man’s shortcomings were patent prior to their appointment.

    Ponting the tactical dunce and Clarke the super-ego were hardly revelations.

    Moreover, as the international calendar now dominates all else, neither had deep captaincy experience at shield and grade level prior to getting the top job in the nation.

    Sporting administration seems to be borrowing more and more from the corporate sector.

    And yet in some areas it has failed to learn from it. If it is to be successful, succession must be planned and leaders must suit the challenges their organisation face.

    Clarke’s mandate was to rebuild the team, culture and all. Border was able to do it but he was hard as nails.

    Maybe it was the very man who Clarke wanted out of the team, Simon Katich, that would have brought the discipline the team needed as it rebuilds.

    George Bailey has been rushed into the Test team on the back of strong white ball form.

    You would have to think that the selectors are in part starting to think about succession for Clarke as he enters the twilight of his career and endures ongoing back problems.

    The long standing rule in Australian cricket has been you pick the best XI and then pick the captain.

    Bailey may be the exception. His leadership qualities might have just got him over the line.

    You can catch Joe Karsay on the weekly Australian Cricket Podcast (or via iTunes)

    Do you find yourself logged out of The Roar?
    We have just switched over to a secure site (https). This means you will need to log-in afresh. If you need help with recovering your password, please get in contact.

    This video is trending right now! Submit your videos for the chance to win a share of $10,000!

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (90)

    • Roar Guru

      November 15th 2013 @ 5:38am
      Cameron Kellett said | November 15th 2013 @ 5:38am | ! Report

      When Ponting lost the Ashes series as captain over in England, weren’t we without.McGrath for the whole series? Didn’t everything and it was our batting that let us down? I don’t think the legends in that series were the ones to blame. Not to mention they bounced back straight away and thrashed the poms 5 zip.

      • November 15th 2013 @ 6:21am
        ChrisUK said | November 15th 2013 @ 6:21am | ! Report

        No, Australia were without McGrath for two Tests. And what about 2009? Oh and 2010/11?

        • November 15th 2013 @ 11:43am
          Cameron Kellett said | November 15th 2013 @ 11:43am | ! Report

          What about 2009 and 2010/11? How is that relevant to that crop, of players i.e. Warne, McGrath.

          • November 15th 2013 @ 11:50am
            ChrisUK said | November 15th 2013 @ 11:50am | ! Report

            Ponting was captain in 2009 and 2010/11 as well – when he also lost the Ashes.

        • Roar Guru

          November 15th 2013 @ 2:07pm
          Chris Kettlewell said | November 15th 2013 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

          In 2009 McGrath was out for 2 tests, and those were the two tests that England won (and one of them by 2 runs). So it was a pretty close series you could say.

      • November 15th 2013 @ 9:15am
        James P said | November 15th 2013 @ 9:15am | ! Report

        Australia lost 2-1. The 2 matches lost were those without McGrath.

        I think people forget how close that series was. Apart from the first test (which Australia won), either team could have won any of the other matches
        – 2nd test – England won by 2 runs
        – 3rd test – Drawn. Australia needed 52 runs. England needed 1 wicket
        – 4th test – England won by 3 wickets
        – 5th test – about 2 days were lost due to rain / bad light. England were 5/126 in their second innings after leading by 6 runs on the first innings and ended up with 335

        The main problem Australia had in the series was that the second line bowlers (Gillespie, Lee, Kasprowicz and Tait) all struggled with averages of 100, 41.1, 62.5 and 42 respectively. McGrath and Warne combined took 59 wickets at 20.96. The rest of the bowlers took 34 wickets at 48.4

        Warne was immense though. 40 wickets in 5 tests at 19.92 and 249 runs at 27.66.

        Awesome series.

        • November 15th 2013 @ 9:26am
          ChrisUK said | November 15th 2013 @ 9:26am | ! Report

          The third Test at Old Trafford lost a lot of time to rain as well – that saved Australia as much as Ponting did. Not sure you can make a case for Australia winning that one – England declared in the second innings which they wouldn’t have done otherwise, because Australia never had time to win.

          Anyway you can make a case for that series going 4-0 to Australia or 4-1 to England – that’s what made it so amazing.

    • November 15th 2013 @ 6:55am
      Atgm said | November 15th 2013 @ 6:55am | ! Report

      Clarke is a tactical genius but on the other hand is a narcissist.i dont know why did he said to kp that ‘nobody likes u’ when in reality no one likes clarke.
      p.s:we gonna beat u chris uk

      • November 15th 2013 @ 11:25pm
        ScottUK said | November 15th 2013 @ 11:25pm | ! Report

        Tactical genius? He let Bell score 150 runs through third man in the summer. Even our Sunday 2’s captain would spot that one.

        • November 16th 2013 @ 12:35am
          JimmyB said | November 16th 2013 @ 12:35am | ! Report

          Cricket captaincy is certainly a harder and more important job than captaining in virtually any other sport, however there is also a tendency to overestimate it’s importance. 99 times out of 100, it’s the players in the team not the captaincy of said team that wins/loses matches. The example of McGrath above illustrates this point rather well I think.
          Given that, I do find it quite amusing how Clarke is held up as a ‘tactical genius’, simply because he is prepared to use some ‘wacky’ field placings, yet at the same time ignore one of the more pertinent fielding positions, namely 3rd man.
          There are also a great many people who consistently compare Clarke and Cook, normally to the detriment of Cook. Now I’m not suggesting that Cook is a tactical genius or great captain (yet), however each man captains in their own way and it normally reflects personality. Cook is an understated sort of person, Clarke is not. Cook is happy to get on with his job without drawing unnecessary attention to himself, Clarke is not. I could go on, but we get the drift.
          Cook has better players than Clarke and this is reflected in their win/loss records as captains. I think that It is for this fairly simple reason that England will win the Ashes again.

          • November 16th 2013 @ 1:26am
            ScottUK said | November 16th 2013 @ 1:26am | ! Report

            Well said Jimmy. At the end of the day, do you want a captain who puts a player in a position because a batsman once hit it through the air there, or a captain who knows his team and gets the job done.

            Atgm – if you could let the England management know some more of Clarke’s plans that would be great, cheers.

        • November 16th 2013 @ 1:15am
          Atgm said | November 16th 2013 @ 1:15am | ! Report

          He has learnt his lesson now.he will place a third man and a deep cover

      • November 16th 2013 @ 3:14am
        Atgm said | November 16th 2013 @ 3:14am | ! Report

        Coz he won the argument jimmy

    • November 15th 2013 @ 8:25am
      bigbaz said | November 15th 2013 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      You go with what has worked for you for over 130 years. Over the journey you will get a few duds,but don’t overreact. The dressing room problems started and have been inherited from Rickys’ time. He was a dud captain. Whoever is our captain has to firstly have to an undisputed 1st choice member of the team. Pick your captain from those players, not a Brealey type.

    • November 15th 2013 @ 9:17am
      abigail said | November 15th 2013 @ 9:17am | ! Report

      Ponting may not have been a tactical genius, in fact his Captaincy on field was about as conservative as Allister Cook’s is now. However, I am starting to believe he was a magnificent leader and manager who got the best out of his team. How he managed to keep the egos of Warne, Clarke and Watson all in check is an accomplishment in itself.

      • November 15th 2013 @ 9:26am
        ChrisUK said | November 15th 2013 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        Yes, good point.

      • November 15th 2013 @ 1:13pm
        Manoj said | November 15th 2013 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

        Agreed, clarke is better technician as captain, but punter was much better at winning his team over and uniting them something Clarke can learn from

      • Roar Guru

        November 15th 2013 @ 2:13pm
        Chris Kettlewell said | November 15th 2013 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

        I don’t know about that. Ponting had some serious winning streaks as captain largely thanks to inheriting a pretty amazing team, and as those great players started to retire started losing a lot more matches even though he still had both himself and Hussey in the side still which Clarke doesn’t have the benefit of now.

        When Clarke took over as Captain, the performance of the side actually improved significantly over the last time under Pontings leadership, and that was with Ponting still in the side, just not as Captain, so the team hadn’t changed. You could argue that the real change that has happened that caused the team to struggle so much was simply Michael Hussey retiring. With Hussey there, Clarke had someone who he could build a partnership with, when he lost Hussey, it became a lot harder for Clarke to carry the team with his own performances, because nobody could stay at the other end long enough.

        • November 15th 2013 @ 4:07pm
          AlanKC said | November 15th 2013 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

          Very good points and I’d go as far as to say that had Hussey played the last Ashes series Australia would have won it.

          • November 15th 2013 @ 4:10pm
            Atgm said | November 15th 2013 @ 4:10pm | ! Report


            • November 16th 2013 @ 12:19am
              JimmyB said | November 16th 2013 @ 12:19am | ! Report


              • November 16th 2013 @ 1:21am
                Atgm said | November 16th 2013 @ 1:21am | ! Report

                Yup he is right!

              • November 16th 2013 @ 1:54am
                JimmyB said | November 16th 2013 @ 1:54am | ! Report

                Ok, but why touché?

              • November 16th 2013 @ 2:31pm
                Atgm said | November 16th 2013 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

                He won the argument thats y

          • November 16th 2013 @ 1:23am
            Homer Gain said | November 16th 2013 @ 1:23am | ! Report

            Funny that. I seem to recall Hussey M playing throughout the 10/11 series. How did that work out?

            • November 16th 2013 @ 1:27am
              Atgm said | November 16th 2013 @ 1:27am | ! Report

              Back then our bowlers bowled shite but this time around they performed extremely well!

            • November 16th 2013 @ 1:41am
              Hookin' YT said | November 16th 2013 @ 1:41am | ! Report

              Hussey 570 runs @ 63

              Attila the Bingle 193 @ 21

        • November 16th 2013 @ 10:51pm
          Richard said | November 16th 2013 @ 10:51pm | ! Report

          Ponting and Clarke are victims in a sense of that period of success. They both ended up captaining at the end of that period. I put them at about the same level(as Captain) with Ponting shading Clarke just at the moment. This series really will define Clarke (as captain)for ever more, as much as he would hate to admit it.
          Ponting will always be the greater batsmen.

      • November 16th 2013 @ 1:30am
        Ian Whitchurch said | November 16th 2013 @ 1:30am | ! Report


        Crap. Ponting had two of the best bowlers there ever was, and the best wicket-keeper/bat there ever was. Whenever it got tactically harder than ‘Toss the ball to McGrath’ or ‘Toss the ball to Warne’, he was stuffed.

        He was a classic example of the limits of “Give the captaincy to the best batsman’.

        That said, as a batsman I’d pick him over Greg Chappell for an Australian best ever side.

        • November 16th 2013 @ 1:40am
          ChrisUK said | November 16th 2013 @ 1:40am | ! Report

          But Abigail’s point is that captaincy is about more than where you put a fielder. The unity of that side given how many strong personalities were in it is, with hindsight, remarkable.

      • November 17th 2013 @ 1:21pm
        Armchair Expert said | November 17th 2013 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

        In Ponting’s book, he stated that he’s never had an issue with Watson and still sees him as a future captain of Australia.

    • November 15th 2013 @ 9:23am
      RobRoy said | November 15th 2013 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      To be fair to Clarke he has not been dealt the strongest hand since taking over – could be argued hat what was in the deck of cards was on the decline before he took over. Being an astute onfield generalissimo has not really covered up the cracks his leadership has generated within the team and from the fans that tends to indicate something fairly fundamental is missing from his captaincy make-up.

    • Roar Guru

      November 15th 2013 @ 11:24am
      Justin Twell said | November 15th 2013 @ 11:24am | ! Report

      As an Englishman living in Australia, there isn’t much better than us coming to Australia and winning that little earn on Australian soil. I hear there is a lot of confidence coming out of the Aussie camp for this series but I still like our bowlers against the Aussie batsman.

      Should be a great series as always. As for Clarke, he doesn’t seem to have the leadership qualities that Ponting possessed, and I agree with Joe in that this is a defining series for Clarke’s legacy.

      • Roar Guru

        November 15th 2013 @ 2:36pm
        Chris Kettlewell said | November 15th 2013 @ 2:36pm | ! Report

        Where do you get the idea that Ponting had such great leadership qualities? This is the same guy that’s come out in the last few weeks saying stuff in a book that he never bothered bringing up with players when he was playing. Yeah, sounds like great leadership!

        Ponting wasn’t a great leader, he just inherited a great team. When that team started to dissolve around him as senior players started retiring his shortfalls as a captain were seriously exposed which is why he ended up surrendering the captaincy to Clarke before he retired from test cricket altogether himself. And during that period between Clarke taking over as Captain up until Hussey’s retirement, the Australian team performance actually had a significant improvement over where it had been over the last couple of years under Ponting.

        • November 15th 2013 @ 4:59pm
          Blaze said | November 15th 2013 @ 4:59pm | ! Report


        • November 15th 2013 @ 5:37pm
          Disco said | November 15th 2013 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

          I agree. Plus he played on far too long which hindered the development of the side.

        • November 16th 2013 @ 12:45am
          Will said | November 16th 2013 @ 12:45am | ! Report

          Using that theory Waugh and Taylor shouldn’t be classed as great captains? Both were reliant on Warne and McGrath.

          Ponting had Warne and McGrath for 3 years. He captained for 7 years. Without Ponting and McGrath he still had a 50% win-loss record.

          I still remember all the so called experts calling for Clarke to replace Ponting as captain, as if a straight swap would be the remedy for the malaise that had infiltrated our cricket.

          History has shown that was simply absurd – I said so at time – and I still maintain that changing the captain is like a drop in the ocean.

          The issue here is that too many people on roar let their bias cloud their judgement. To be honest, most here just probably can’t cop losing and so blame others, whether it is the coach, the captain, the selectors, the CEO, the sport scientists. As each one is sacked and replaced, the results stay the same, and the roarers are still perplexed.

          Ponting was a conservative captain, in the mould of Cook – however both had the respect of their players and clearly that has counted for a lot.

          I rated Ponting as captain – tactically he was boring, but so what?

          Interesting that the original article claims that Clarke is a tactical genius and Ponting was a tactical dunce. Very interesting analysis. Problem is that how can Clarke be a tactical genius if his team, so far at least, doesn’t win cricket matchs.

          Ponting was a solid captain, who was well liked. He ran a tight enough ship and ground out a few wins, kept us very competitive.

          Clarke supposedly has flair and daring, yet we were minutes away from losing 4-0 in an ashes series.

          If Clarke can win the Ashes – and I think Australia has a decent enough shot – then he will get the credit for that.

          If Australia wins the Ashes it will have more to do with batsmen scoring runs and bowlers taking 20 wickets than moving a mid off a bit wider or having funky fields.

          • November 16th 2013 @ 1:56am
            JimmyB said | November 16th 2013 @ 1:56am | ! Report

            Well put Will.

    , , ,