Category: Michael Clarke (page 1 of 4)

It’s time for some new source material

England’s players have been treated to an afternoon of Beefy rest day anecdotes, while Michael Clarke’s babbling on about ‘the line’ for the billionth time (“I think everyone knows where the line is,” he said this week – if not, we certainly know where we can hear about it). It’s pretty clear that no-one’s got anything left to say ahead of this Ashes series. We need some new source material. We need some cricket.

You get the impression that a few things need to go England’s way for them to win the series. Actually, that’s a mindless thing to say. Of course things need to go their way for them to win. That’s what winning involves. What we mean is that a few things need to go unexpectedly their way. If everyone on both sides performs roughly as you’d expect, Australia would win.

But this is the essence of sport. All that’s gone before is just history. Averages measure the past, they don’t predict the future. Shan Masood has just made his first Test hundred in the fourth innings to help Pakistan make 382 to win. That was far from a likely outcome.

The only people who truly have any idea how things are going to go are the experts.

Steven Smith is destined to fail says Michael Clarke

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Michael Clarke has launched an astonishing broadside against his team-mate Steven Smith ahead of this summer’s Ashes series. The Australian captain claims that Smith will struggle to make any sort of impact this summer despite now being ranked the best Test batsman in the world.

Responding to Graeme Swann’s assertion that Smith might get found out in English conditions, Clarke said simply: “We will find out in five Test matches’ time whether Steve Smith is good enough to have success over here.”

A hundred in any of the first four Test matches would surely prove Smith’s credentials, so it is striking that the Australian captain does not think the matter will be resolved before the end of the series. Clearly, he is expecting few runs from the team’s new number three prior to the fifth Test and presumably not even then.

Smith has not commented publically, but will doubtless be horrified to learn that his captain has such little faith in him. Alternatively, he may see Clarke’s words as merely the latest salvo in the proxy war for control of the Australia team. Clarke, threatened by Smith’s recent success and his status as heir apparent, may be trying to undermine his rival to firm up his own position.

Either way, the Australia camp is in obvious disarray with the cracks destined to widen like those in the Waca pitch on which they won’t be playing.

With suspicions that Chris Rogers and Brad Haddin may be suffering from senility amongst other age-related illnesses, things currently look bleak for the tourists and there are also rumours that Darren Lehmann spat on a penguin while at London Zoo this week, raising the possibility that the coach may come under fire for his boorish behaviour.

Michael Clarke not quite finished and Steve Smith barely started

England v Australia: 3rd Investec Ashes Test - Day One

It’s possible that we jumped the gun in saying that we might not see much more of Michael Clarke. We’ve reached this conclusion on the basis that he made a hundred as recently as today.

Watching Clarke teeter and gallumph about, it’s clear that the spirit is willing but the tendons are inflamed, but you can get a long way with spirit – just ask Steve Smith.

We’ve previously said that at some point we’ll come to terms with Steve Smith’s run-scoring. We’re not sure we’re quite there yet, but a good innings is at least no longer a surprise. In fact, we’ve reached a point where we’re faintly outraged when he’s omitted from the Australia side. He pretty much always scores runs and he tends to do so in the right sort of manner for the situation as well.

Good cricketer. Weird batsman, weirder bowler, but good cricketer.

Learning, reacting, chopping, changing and Ponting

It may feel like Australia lost the series against Pakistan 4-0, but actually it was only two. No matter how you play, you can’t lose more than two matches when you only play two.

This has allowed Michael Clarke to somewhat disingenuously plead that his captaincy shouldn’t be judged on the basis of two Tests. People will be quick to draw his attention to last year’s 4-0 defeat to India, which is perhaps what he wants as such talk distracts from his batting form.

The truth is that Clarke’s got away with a 2-0 defeat. He can pretend that Australia might have bounced back were they playing a third Test, but history tends to suggest that learning is more than outweighed by the negative effects of reacting whenever Australia start losing.

“We’re learning,” they say. “Look!”

But changing isn’t the same as improving.

The captain’s view

Ricky Ponting’s main redeeming feature as a captain was that he was plain-speaking. He always erred on the side of blunt honesty and had an unusual predilection for answering the questions asked of him.

But there is quite some distance between being open and honest as an international cricket captain and being open and honest as a columnist. The former is like being the least annoying daytime Radio 1 DJ. You’re the least bad of a group that’s pretty much defined by one negative characteristic.

It is therefore no surprise to see that Ponting’s first column for Cricinfo is fairly banal. He still knows those involved, so his criticism is qualified and weak. You have to read between the lines a bit and magnify some of what he’s saying to interpret his true meaning.

When Ponting says that “a lot of what I saw was a bit frenetic, a bit fast,” then maybe – just maybe – he’s talking about Australia’s number three reverse sweeping his way to 37 off 28 balls in a match in which the opposition’s just posted 570-6 with one guy making a double hundred.

Glenn Maxwell at three – but what would have been next?

The selection of Glenn Maxwell to bat at number three might rank as one of the greatest cricketing decisions of all time. In this context, we’re using ‘greatest’ to mean ‘inexplicable and hilarious’.

But all we can think about is what might have happened next.

If this series had run on, who knows where Australia might have ended up. If you’re picking Maxwell at three by the second Test, what do you do when you’ve lost four on the bounce? The team physio, Alex Kontouris, must have harboured serious hopes of opening the bowling if there had been such a match.

Playing a five Test series when all you can do is lose is like being asked to build an elaborate timber framed home when the only tools you’ve got are a spoon and a spatula. It’s a painful, humiliating farce, but every day you have to turn up for work and do your best and then explain your progress to the client afterwards.

If you ever have to go through this, the after-effects are huge. There’s no hiding place. You had ample opportunities to do a good job so if all you managed was abject failure, you have to answer for that. By slinking off after two Tests, the Australian team has minimised the damage.

The moral of the story

Your averages, captain, coaches and players can probably survive incompetence over a relatively short series, so if you’re going to be rubbish against someone, make sure it’s Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand or someone.

Michael Clarke and ‘the line’

Sanctimonious get

One of the most annoying things about the Australian cricket team is not its verbal aggression but the players’ relentless self-righteousness about it.

Here’s a quote from Michael Clarke that you’ll feel like you’ve read a thousand times before.

“I think we play our cricket hard on the field but I think as Australians we understand and respect there’s a line you can’t cross.”

What Clarke doesn’t get is that what he perceives to be ‘the line’ might not necessarily be the line to everyone else in the world. Who made you King of the Line, Michael? Why do you get to decide what does and doesn’t go?

He reminds us of one of those strong-willed but stupid kids who’s forever changing the rules of whatever game he’s playing so that he always wins. He’s trying to enjoy his victories, but all the other kids are sort of rolling their eyes and thinking maybe they should go and do something else now.

In the same interview, Clarke also says that he himself has crossed the line twice in the last year.

Actually, he says he ‘made no bones about’ the incident with James Anderson and that what he said ‘wasn’t appropriate’. However, a second later he’s going on about the importance of going close to the line, but not crossing it. He then appears to imply that this incident and a similar one with Dale Steyn fall under the heading ‘Australians playing cricket extremely fairly’.

Maybe it’s just that Clarke has a different definition of ‘the line’. In his world, you can cross the acceptable/unacceptable threshold with impunity. What he’s talking about is the line that separates ‘not stabbing someone in the eye with the scorer’s pencil’ from ‘stabbing someone in the eye with the scorer’s pencil’.

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