The Clarke Captaincy revisited

By Bernard Whimpress

Still not convinced by Michael Clarke and it seems to me that too many critics are prepared to call him ‘innovative’ and ‘intuitive’ when ‘quixotic’ might be a better term.

OK, so let’s take the first day of Lord’s. Bringing Watson on early worked but it was a fluke rather than an inspired move because Watson rarely looked threatening thereafter.

And what about all those bowling changes? Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting used to keep pace bowlers going for an hour at a time and I recall Waugh bowling Stuart MacGill from the start of play until nearly tea on a hot day at the MCG against England. I’m not saying that working the bowlers by an almost automatic system was perfect but I certainly don’t think Clarke is a genius with all his rapid switches.

Yesterday I kept a record of the changes from lunch until late in the day and the sequence of over spells went like this: Siddle 3, Pattinson 3, Watson 3, Harris 4, Siddle 1, Pattinson 3, Agar 7, Siddle 3, Harris 4, Watson 2, Pattinson 1, Agar 5, Siddle 4, Pattinson 3, Watson 3, Siddle and Smith.

Do you see a pattern? I see only the inability for the bowler to work out a plan? Only Agar had anything like a real spell and eighteen balls hardly allows the quicks time to work anything out. Sure Pattinson bowled poorly (as did Johnson and Siddle four years ago) and might have had his difficulties with the ridge. His one over which went for 16 runs was bad but to be dismissed straight after does nothing for a young man who I hope is playing for Australia for the next decade. Already he is probably looking over his shoulder and thinking he’ll be out of the next Test – my sympathies incidentally to Starc for missing this one.

And what of bringing on Smith? That was hardly a master stroke. I was thinking of bringing him on earlier in the afternoon when no one looked like making a breakthrough. It also has to be remembered that Clarke didn’t give him even one over at Trent Bridge.

The one plus mark I will grant Clarke is for keeping Smith on for a few overs at the end. I don’t listen to the commentaries much but flicked on to hear I think it was Strauss say he’d take him off after his second over. Nasser Hussain (who was a champion leg-spinner as a boy) said ‘but he’s got 1 for 7 off two overs’. Still Strauss would’ve pulled him off and taken the new ball. They love pace these guys.

It reminded me of my own playing career for Murray Bridge High School long ago when as a leg-spinner I took 3/30 off about seven overs in the first game and a couple of pace bowlers had operated all afternoon for similar figures. In the second match I too had 1 for 7 from two overs and was taken off and hardly got a bowl again for the season.

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. The first requirement of leadership is to unite the team Bernard. Clarke didn’t even have the nation behind him at first. A stellar year with the bat patched over the locker room tiff(s) – notably Kattich. That Kattick lost his contract was a statement of support for the CA selection of Clarke as captain.

    So now, does Watson get the tap? Personally, I wouldn’t miss him.

    But, further to your questioning of his captaincy, would you also say that his leadership is also questionable?

  2. Peter Flynn says

    Clarke did swap and change a bit.

    Forced to some extent by Pattinson.

  3. It is proactive to change bowlers if plans are either not being applied or are not working.
    It is unsettling if it is just impatience – and bowlers end up trying too hard with wicket taking balls.
    It is a question of judgement and that is the captain’s task.
    Let’s face it. Captains are ultimately valued on wins. Clarke’s at least worth watching.
    and, like the batting selections, it is not as though we are spoiled for choice!

  4. Lachlan Waterman says

    Interesting comments Bernard. Waugh and Ponting had world-class bowlers in McGrath and Warne. Clarke hasn’t been afforded that luxury. I always felt Waugh and Ponting were super conservative and lacked flair or imagination.

    To restrict the poms to 7/289 on what looked like a belter of a wicket was a good result on the first day. Unfortunately, Clarke’s batting appears to be suffering now unlike Allan Border who had the ability to carry the innings when he batted at No.4. It’s not a world-class attack anymore and Clarke needs to stand up and make centuries with the bat.

  5. bernard whimpress says

    Thanks guys

    I’m aware of Clarke’s difficulties with the side but my concern is that he is escaping deeper analysis. Back in the summer I commented on his ludicrous bowling of Quiney before stumps on the second day in Adelaide. I had no trouble with him giving Quiney a few overs to welcome him into the team in Brisbane.

    Yesterday why didn’t Clarke take the second new ball? Again, I didn’t mind him giving Agar and Smith a lengthy spell in combination but surely the second new ball was the one chance to dismiss England after which he could revert to spin. Finally, I concluded he just wanted to get through the day but is that leadership? Well, no.

  6. Smith is 2 overs max when desperate. He is barely District standard – guarantees a boundary ball every over.
    Clarke’s leadership is, at present, far from threatened (on the field).
    He has some ordinary stock to carry – Phil Hughes for god’s sake!

  7. bernard whimpress says

    In the wash-up there were some negatives for England.

    After Root and Bresnan batted through the first session for 84 runs on the third morning why did they not score at a reasonable rate after lunch? In an hour and a half they (plus Bell) added 25 runs, Cook was yawning on the balcony and I was bored stiff and went and did something else. Obviously they added 31 in the half-hour before tea and I watched the last two hours when we were smashed around the park.

    Yesterday, England’s fielding was sloppy. Prior not keeping well, missed catches in slips, poor ground fielding. We’ve got the big problems but they should’ve won by more.

  8. Tony Roberts says

    Your praise of Clarke’s move with Smith at the end of Day 1 was rather faint. Turning a potential stumps score of 4-300 into 7-289 demands due credit. However, you’re right that it would look more like part of a strategy than a whim if he’d tried Smith for a few overs during the Bell-Broad stand at Trent Bridge.

    It’s likely that a lot of Clarke’s speculators are gestures to please Ian Chappell and Warne that he’s their boy: the modern embodiment of the great lost lad captains Keith Miller and Warney himself. Heaven forbid that Clarke follow the approach of boring old Steve Waugh, who (in the Chappell view) had the effrontery to steal the captaincy off Warney, and then the gall to rub it in by building the second-best team in the history of cricket.

    For someone who has been so right about so much for so long, Ian Chappell has always had a massive blind spot about Steve Waugh.

  9. bernard whimpress says

    Good points Tony

    Smith probably has to be handled with care but he is a potential partnership breaker as is Warner. If either of them are in the side and there’s a huge partnership that needs breaking a big-spinning leg-break is more likely to do it than anything else. I probably rate Smith more highly than crio in his comment and would give him a few overs if they are landing in the right spot.

    And who is the first-best team in the history of cricket?

Leave a Comment