Clarke off to a good start

 

A lot of us have found it difficult to warm to Michael Clarke for a lot of reasons, but the achievements of he and his team in Sri Lanka can’t be ignored : they did exceptionally well. So well, in fact, that Australia is now back on track towards respectability.

It’s easy to trivialise Australia’s victories in the Test and One-day series by pointing the finger at the inadequacies of the hosts. They are disorganised and lack proper direction both on and off-field. But they are talented, and you could certainly make a good case at the moment that Sri Lanka is a better team than the Indian rabble that has been doing the rounds in England over the last two months.

One of the most impressive things about the Sri Lankan tour was that good decisions were made, a situation no doubt helped by the fact that Andrew Hilditch is no longer involved. After the initial confusion over the use of Usman Khawaja as the opener in the trial game, everything that was decided upon reaped rewards, if not for the long-term then definitely for the requirements of this tour.

Ryan Harris was preferred to Peter Siddle because of form at the time, Trent Copeland was chosen to bowl tightly, the skipper saw something in Nathan Lyon that he didn’t see in Michael Beer, and  –  most importantly of all –  significant changes were made to the batting order. It couldn’t have been easy for Clarke to tell Ricky Ponting that Shaun Marsh was going to bat no.3, but it just might be his first defining moment as a leader.

It’s rather ironic that Australia’s series victory was achieved by winning on a wicket which which was most foreign to the visiting team rather than the hosts. The Galle triumph was the result of two magnificent contributions : the intelligent batting of Michael Hussey, and a brilliant spell of reverse-swing bowling by Shane Watson. Yes, others chipped in  –  and it might be argued that Lyon’s five wicket haul was more than just ‘chipping in’  –  but those two performances altered the course of the game and the series.

Some important elements of the team now appear to be in better shape than they were back in January. Marsh will hopefully give us some long-term stability near the top of the order, and Phil Hughes might now grow into the player many have earmarked him to be. Clarke and Hussey look reassuring at nos. 5 and 6  –   has there ever been a better batsman with the tail than Hussey? –  and we know that Harris and Siddle are impact bowlers as well as work-horses.

But nothing conclusive can be drawn from what we’ve seen from Copeland and Lyon. The tall New South Welshman may be a ‘horses for courses’ type selection gong forward, while Lyon is promising rather than threatening, an assertion that probably applies to most off-spinners apart from some rubber-wristed geniuses from the sub-continent.

Mitchell Johnson, Brad Hadden and Ponting are all a slight concern, but we mustn’t be hasty in making long-term decisions about them. Hadden looks a weary player at the moment, while speculation over Ponting will fluctuate from Test to Test as it did for Steve Waugh towards the end.

Johnson was reasonable  –  we know he should be better than that  –  but, as ever, was a most willing work-horse who hit the bat hard, and he will appreciate the extra bounce on offer in upcoming series. All three players provide a hard edge that will be vital when things get tough in South Africa in November.

Clarke could not have had a better start to his tenure as Australian captain, and this victory should be acknowledged. Virtually everything he touched turned to gold, and our team is heading in the right direction. It’s early days yet, but he might just be maturing into the cricketer we thought he could be.

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for the overview.
    As captains, a small gauge/spec….
    when I saw Punter, there seemed to be troubles
    with Clarke there are options
    greatness, of course, provides solutions.
    I am just so pl,eased not to have Ponting in charge but hope that he can bat on.

  2. James Madsen-Smith says:

    Clarke does seem to have a good cricket mind. Australia’s future suddenly seems slightly less bleak. And Peter Siddle showed he can slot into our pace attack. And how about Marsh?! We seem to have some good players coming through

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