Michael Clarke

In 16 Tests as captain, Michael Clarke has scored 1618 runs at an average of 64.72 with six hundreds to his name © Getty Images

 

It’s commendable the way the Australians have held their fort even during the transition phase. They’ve rubbed shoulders with some of the best teams in the Test arena and have come out unscathed more often than not. They’ve also managed to unearth some excellent young bowlers during this phase, most of who’ve been thorns in the flesh of every opposition they’ve come across in the last couple of years. Lending muscle to the Australian batting is Michael Clarke, who has plundered runs at will since taking over as captain from Ricky Ponting. His positive captaincy, too, has been refreshing to see.

 

When the South Africans had Australia reeling at 40 for three in the ongoing first Test at Brisbane, a collapse was on the cards. But there was one major hurdle in Clarke for the visitors to clear. Those who followed closely New Zealand’s tour of Australia last year would be aware what a hurdle Clarke can be. The skipper scored a brilliant 139 to steer his side out of troubled waters and hand New Zealand a nine-wicket defeat. The unconquered 259 too will rank among the very best, primarily because it came under testing circumstances and, as has often happened in the past, pressure brings out the best in Clarke.

 

In 16 Tests as captain, Clarke has scored 1618 runs at an average of 64.72 with six hundreds to his name. That is noteworthy, considering the fact that he already averages a healthy 50.52 as a batsman. Some of his finest knocks as skipper have come against formidable opponents like India, South Africa, Sri Lanka and England. While we dwell on the topic of averages, it is also important to note that he averaged a massive 125.20 against the touring Indians, albeit the visitors were already on a downward spiral by then.

 

It’s impressive the way Clarke has handled himself since the last couple of years. Even before he was appointed as the captain, Clarke has always looked to shoulder responsibilities in the batting department. Since the beginning of 2010, he has been the leading run-scorer for Australia in both the Tests and the One-Day Internationals (ODIs).

 

Below table reveals Clarke’s efficiency since January 2010 in Tests

 

Player

M

Runs

Highest

Avg

100s

Michael Clarke

20

1766

329*

55.18

6

Michael Hussey

20

1714

195

53.56

5

Ricky Ponting

18

1096

221

36.53

2

Shane Watson

13

810

95

33.75

0

Brad Haddin

16

712

136

30.95

1

 

During this phase, apart from Hussey, none of the other batsmen are in the same league as Clarke. That shows how significant his contributions have been. Moreover, it’s important to note that the Australians haven’t yet lost a single Test series under Clarke’s tenure. To keep the ship afloat while making sure your own performance doesn’t take a backseat is an arduous task, but Clarke has handled it clinically. His numbers gain in significance if only the last one year is taken into account.

 

Leading run-scorers for Australia since the last one year:

 

Player

M

Runs

Highest

Avge

100s

Michael Clarke

11

1206

329*

75.37

4

Ricky Ponting

11

851

221

50.05

2

Michael Hussey

11

680

150*

42.50

1

David Warner

10

594

180

39.60

2

Ed Cowan

8

494

136

38.00

1

 

An average of 75.37 since the last one year is phenomenal, to say the least. Also, his centuries have often converted into big scores, and that’s a hallmark of an exceptional player. It is evident that much of Clarke’s success can be attributed to a fearless approach. His attitude has been positive right from the outset, and the effects of that are reflected in his, as well as the team’s performances. The fact that he hasn’t ruled out victory in the ongoing first Test – that is currently headed for a draw – shows his frame of mind. “I know it’s going to be tough to win the Test from here, but it’s worth having a crack. We’re going to have a go,” Clarke said.

 

Clarke’s captaincy and batting has received accolades from many in the cricket fraternity, and there is little doubt that his fan base continues to grow. Former Australian skipper Ian Chappell rightly noted when he said, “Michael Clarke is quickly establishing a well-deserved reputation for brave and aggressive captaincy. His entertaining approach is based on one premise: trying to win the match from the opening delivery.”

 

The South Africans are no doubt the No.1 ranked team in Tests and were the favourites coming into this series, but their mettle will severely be tested. Australia’s resurgence during the last two days is proof of that. Clarke has taken on some of the best bowlers during his knock of 218 and has clearly won the battle. Going by his recent form, it looks as though there could be no respite for the South African speedsters even at Adelaide and Perth.

 

Clarke is definitely the glue that holds this Australian unit together.

 

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)