Captain Clarke or Captain Grumpy? Either way, he has it right

The past three weeks of cricket in India has taught us a lot about our current team; some things we knew before, others we are finding out for the first time.

Contrary to popular belief, by no means is it all bad.

For one thing, if we didn’t already know that Australia has one-hell-of-a captain and middle order batsmen in Michael Clarke, we certainly know now.

While his batting has won plaudits ever since he took the reins from Ricky Ponting two seasons ago, his leadership over a young team has often been over shadowed by rotation policy rumblings from the bleachers.

However it should not be overlooked that while Clarke’s record as captain is passable at best, he has extracted some exciting performances from young players that will form the backbone of our future test team.

Clarke has been under-fire in India.

For example, James Pattinson has played his first 9 test matches with a freedom rarely seen from a young player. He is vicious, attacking and as some of his performances suggest, we may have uncovered a key cog for the next decade of Australian test cricket.

His axing as a part of the homework scandal showed that Clarke and coach Mickey Arthur are in this for the long haul, no matter the cost.

It would have been easy to let a string minor indiscretions go, or otherwise internally discipline those at fault. However this course of action will hang in the minds a lot longer than a slap on the wrist in a team hotel room ever will.

Its child discipline 101; if the kids are naughty, take away the favourite toy.

Although fully grown men on the outside, make no mistake, in cricket terms the current Australian test team are kids.

To win games of cricket, especially in the alien conditions of India, you need experience that almost none of the current squad could hope to possess at their level of development. Therefore, much of the criticism that has been hurled their way over the past three weeks is largely undeserved.

As far as tours of India are concerned, the line up from the opening two tests is the most inexperienced since Alan Border’s 1986 drawn series.

To put it in context, the only series in which Australia has been successful in India since (2004), the average tests played by the squad prior to the series was 48.

Their average age prior to the tour was 30.31, while almost three quarters of the squad had played in India before.

Compare that to the current team, who are on average 26.54 years old, played just 19.64 tests on average and with less than a quarter of the squad playing in India for a second time.

What many people appear to misunderstand is that even for the most experienced of teams, winning in India is really tough work. Let alone for a team that has played under 20 test matches each.

Even the great Steve Waugh led side of 2001, with similar average tests and ages as his 2004 counterparts, were unsuccessful in the spin friendly conditions.

Since that tour of 1986, every touring side has been more experienced than the current team in all the above areas. They were older, had played more games and visited India more often.

This brings us back to Michael Clarke.

Wins are not going to come easy for him and the Australians over the next few years, especially in opposition friendly conditions.

Although he may not finish his career with a captaincy record like Waugh, Taylor or even Ponting; Clarke will play a role that is far more valuable.

Like Alan Border being charged with a young side through a rebuilding era, Clarke will set the platform for the next Australian cricket dynasty.

Border’s guidance laid the platform for the careers of some of our greatest such as Shane Warne, Mark Taylor and the Waugh’s.

Clarke will have to play a similar role with our future stars to ensure that they can drive our next great teams to the heights we as a public are used to.

That is why the line in the sand will be so important. It wasn’t for Shane Watson’s benefit, nor Mitchell Johnson’s, it was a message to the next generation that a good attitude is non-negotiable.

If that is the legacy that Michael Clarke leaves at the end of his career, then he will have done his job to the letter and Australian cricket will be all the better for it.

Lachlan McKenna is a second-year Bachelor of Journalism (Sport) student at La Trobe University, Bundoora. Follow him on Twitter: @lachie22mckenna


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