Clarke will provide more solidity by moving up the order; Haddin could be played as pure batsman

Australia needs Michael Clarke now, more than ever, to move up in the batting order © Getty Images

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

Should skipper Michael Clarke promote himself in the order for the third Test against India? The struggling Australians need impetus in their batting and there is no better man for the job than their in-form captain. In the aftermath of Shane Watson’s controversial axing and departure, Clarke’s burden has increased tremendously and it is the captain who has to rescue the sinking Australian ship.

For years, the No 5 slot has been Clarke’s own as he has batted there for most of his innings and scored all 20 of his Test hundreds at that slot. Early in his career, he used to bat at No 6 as the stalwarts packed the top order. There have been occasions where he has batted at No 4, but hasn’t enjoyed the same success.

Here is a break-up of his career record by batting position:

 

Position T R Ave 100s 50s HS
Number Three 1 25 25.00 0 0 25
Number Four 18 644 22.20 0 4 80
Number Five 63 5692 63.95 20 19 329*
Number Six 16 811 50.68 3 3 151
Number Seven 2 78 78.00 0 0 39*
Number Eight 1 7 7.00 0 0 7

 

Although the statistics may suggest that the No 5 is the best for Clarke, Australia needs him now, more than ever, at the No 4 slot or at the one-drop position. Shane Watson batted at No 4 in the first two Tests, and with him out the equation, the top becomes weaker. Clarke’s promotion will provide more stability as David Warner opines. There is also a possibility that Clarke might come in at No 3 as the incumbent Phil Hughes has struggled on this tour.

As Australia’s mainstay, Clarke was batting too low at No 5 and had to walk into tough situations. That he has performed admirably on the tour is another matter, but there is too much pressure by the time he comes in. He would be in a better position to anchor the innings and guide the other batsmen by batting higher in the order.

During this transition phase, Clarke has led the side admirably and his exploits with the bat have been stunning. Until a few months ago, he had the services of the stalwarts Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. Clarke doesn’t have the luxury of having Ponting at No 4 and the cushion of Hussey at No 6 to back him. This is why, Clarke needs to take centrestage by promoting himself in the batting line-up and approach his responsibility from a different perspective.

Had Hussey and Ponting stayed a little longer, this Australian line-up would have looked a lot different. There is an obvious lack of experience and one cannot pin the blame on the players alone for their failures on this tour. To make things worse, uncertainty looms over wicket-keeper Matthew Wade’s availability for the third Test at Mohali. The inexperienced Australian team has been hit further by the unceremonious exit of Watson. Keeping that in perspective, it’s quite possible that Brad Haddin, who has come in as a cover for Wade, might even be considered for a pure batsman’s role. Haddin has three Test hundreds and 43 Tests over five years to back his merits to play in the eleven purely as a batsman.

With a side struggling, the off-field issues often take precedence and eclipse the game. India bore the brunt of a similar fate on their tour Down Under and now it is Australia’s turn. The build- up to the Mohali Test has been far from ideal for Australia, and the only thing they can do is to answer with a fighting performance. It would be business as usual when the teams step out for the game. But does Australia have the arsenal to strike back?

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)