Clarke to usher in new era?
If you ask any sport-fuelled Australian who Allan Border was, you would most likely get a sentence along the lines of ‘the most intimidating / feared Australian to have graced international sport.’ As a batsman, he was devastating, as a captain he was a crusader to the national side and brought Cricket Australia out of a dark and troubling age.
Taking up the reigns in 1984-85 from a tearful Kim Hughes’, the Sydney-born great brought them the World Cup in 1987 and regained the Ashes two years later. His Test record was admittedly below par – 14 consecutive matches without a victory between 1985 and 1987 – but this is where Michael Clarke can emulate him.
His sheer dedication during, and post-career, to the national side is that of a hero to young players, a position that current captain Clarke has a great opportunity to grasp on to. Much maligned by the media and the public for his reputation as a diva who, like England’s Kevin Pietersen, tends to flaunt his ‘celebrity status’ and gives little back in substance.
It has been said that Clarke is merely holding on to the captain’s name temporarily while his cricket board find someone with more guile and expertise in leading from the front. It is understandable to think that they are trying to make the best of a bad situation, but the 30-year-old has been an integral part of the national side’s middle order, while remaining Ricky Ponting’s understudy for three years and learning th captain’s guidebook from one of Australia’s finest cricket captains.
But with back-to-back Ashes defeats, a World Cup quarter-final defeat – their worst performance since 1992, and a drop to fourth in the Test rankings – it’s quite clear to see that the Baggy Greens’ need a new hero. Having mentioned Clarke’s recent prowess since taking the helm of the international side recently, he has done what so many previous captains’ failed to do from the off, he has brought his prolific individual skills with him.
His standout knock of 151 against South Africa was his joint-third-highest international score and displayed his growing prowess of a player who dismissed his flamboyant approach as a youngster in favour of consistency and reliability in the five-day game. He is one of few current Australian players with the capabilities to lead his team out of a mire, despite the anomaly in the recent match at Cape Town; a paltry team total of 47 – their fourth-lowest Test score.
His growing abilities as a leader have ensured the national side remain buoyant during this turbulent time; with severe changes taking place throughout Cricket Australia. In danger of falling by the wayside completely, it has been Clarke’s responsibility to ensure stability amongst the ranks; to maintain the dogged and intimidating approach that the Australian side are known for.
His predecessor is heading toward the end of a star-studded career, and old-heads such as Ponting, Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin will be hanging up their whites sooner rather than later, and able-bodied replacements have yet to prove their credentials. Yet a composed maiden Test half-century from Usman Khawaja and a blistering six-wicket haul from 18-year-old Pat Cummins at the Wanderers proves that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Identifying all the facts and figures, the brutal Australian media have made it clear that Clarke has to merit the honour of captain if he is to inherit the backing of his nation. His prowess as a batsman, fielder, and occasionally part-time spinner should never be questioned, but while his captaincy is by no means watertight, he has the willpower and knowledge to drive a young and inexperienced side forward.
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