Second Test – Day 4: The Clarke Captaincy

There’s no doubt that Michael Clarke’s captaincy has had a wonderful effect on his batting with a record-breaking triple century and three double-centuries in this calendar year.

And yet …

I grew up believing that the best batsmen in the side should bat three and four. In my youth Neil Harvey and Norm O’Neill; Ian and Greg Chappell in my maturing years. Viv Richards, the most dominating batsman in the last fifty years, did so from number three for the West Indies as did Ricky Ponting in his pomp for us. It’s surely time for Clarke as batting captain to step up the order and lead (like Ian Chappell) from the front.

As a fielding captain Michael Clarke first won points for being inventive and a lateral thinker. However, this summer, for me, he’s begun to lose them as he’s gone from being inventive to quirky to cutesy-pie.

In Brisbane I didn’t mind him giving newcomer Rod Quiney a few overs in the South African first innings to make him feel welcome in the international arena. But giving the same bowler four overs in succession at the end of the same match when the game was there to be won stretched credulity. When James Pattinson returned to the attack he might well have sneaked a yorker under Vernon Philander’s bat and a short spell from him could’ve seen the Proteas wobble.

The Proteas have wobbled in this match but Clarke might have created more pressure. On the second evening Smith and Rudolph were allowed to cruise to 2-217 at stumps against Quiney and Clarke himself. With the batsmen merely looking to occupy the crease a stiffer challenge demanded to be thrown at them. Surely a lively couple of overs from Siddle and Hilfenhaus would have provided a more severe test of their defensive capacities.

I had no qualms about Clarke’s introduction of Warner’s leg-spin on day two. In fact, it paid dividends with his dismissal of  Amla, and I’m happy to see him used more often in short spells but the way the Brisbane Test and day two of this Test ended definitely saw Clark’s decision-making move from the inventive to the quirky.

At the end of day 4 he lost me entirely. When Quiney was again brought on late in the day and a single was scored I yelled out from the Members’ Stand ‘That’s 3/401 Quiney!’ – his first-class figures in six years confirming that Victorian captain Cameron White doesn’t think much of his penetration.

I didn’t mind Clarke replacing Lyon with himself for a brief spell but introducing Ricky Ponting to bowling off-spinning darts in the penultimate over against Du Plessis and De Villiers who were intent on defence was just too cutesy-pie. It might’ve won cheap applause from the Members’ but paying membership dues is no clue to cricket intelligence.

As I left the ground I found myself almost pining for a cricket hardman as leader.

Say, someone like Bill Lawry.

About Bernard Whimpress

Freelance historian (mainly sport) who has just written his 40th book. Will accept writing commissions with reasonable pay. Among his most recent books are George Giffen: A Biography, The Towns: 100 Years of Glory 1919-2018, Joe Darling: Cricketer, Farmer, Politician and Family Man (with Graeme Ryan) and The MCC Official Ashes Treasures (5th edition).


  1. Jeff Dowsing says

    I guess if you’re making a gazillion runs at 5 one would be loathe to bat anywhere else, but I reckon in Perth Clarke should at least swap with Ponting at 4 .

    I also agree that the faith in Quiney as a bowler is a little odd.

    As a captain I have no truck with short spells and mixing it up though. Where Clarke might have exerted better leadership was telling Lyon to slow the **** down. At the end he was rifling through balls like a machine gun. Especially his last over which he finished in 2 minutes, 3 minutes shy of stumps. What’s the point bowling balls for the sake of it? It was like he gave himself no hope of taking a wicket himself.

  2. bernard whimpress says

    Thanks for the comment. Lyon possibly did bowl too quickly at the finish although I think getting through the overs quicker can also be an attacking manoeuvre. Lance Gibbs used to get through eight ball overs in two minutes. It’s OK surely if you are mixing up the deliveries. When I sat behind the wicket for several overs yesterday Lyon didn’t appear to be giving the ball enough air.

  3. Jeff Dowsing says

    The master of psychology in terms of spin bowling, Shane Warne, would have been eye balling the batsman, changing a fielder, making secret signals to the keeper – anything to bluff the batsman and make them second guess themselves. I think Warne’s latest criticisms would go to his frustration watching Lyon being swept up by the moment and seemingly losing confidence in himself.

  4. John Butler says

    Perhaps a bit tough on Clarke, Bernard, but I know what you mean.

    I think expectations on Australia’s bowling were artificially raised by the insipid Indian efforts last summer. When your opponent hasn’t really turned up ready for a fight it always looks too easy.

    The biggest tactical problem this summer is that some of the key Saffa bats don’t have glaring weaknesses. And, as now demonstrated, they are definitely up for a contest. Collectively, they’re a much tougher nut to crack. Despite Micky Arthurs’ knowledge of the opposition, no really obvious plan of attack has been apparent.

    Given two flat wickets, and given the loss of Pattinson in this test, Clarke has ended up experimenting for lack of a clear path. The limitations of our bowling have also become apparent: the loss of Watson’s variety has been significant.

    I think Lyon is quite promising. I doubt he’ll be an all time great, but he looks like a solid pro in the making. The Saffas would certainly have taken him in preference to their spinning options.

  5. Jeff Dowsing says

    Watson would have been absolutely ideal that last session JB.

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