Test fast bowler
The 2013-14 Ashes series will be a watershed for Australian cricket and, in particular, Michael Clarke.
Things are starting to get ugly. We have lost the last three Ashes series, and three of the last four, and have not won for nine Tests.
History is suggesting that this is looming as one of the worst eras of Australian cricket and that the Argus report has been a spectacular failure.
For Clarke, the situation is even more critical. If he is going to be remembered as a great Australian batsman – let alone a great Australian captain – he needs to start performing in Ashes series.
The English are all over Michael Clarke. The magnificent ball James Anderson bowled Clarke with in Trent Bridge was highly significant in setting the tone for Clarke’s batting during the series.
After that, Stuart Broad got him out five times and there is no doubt that the English sense that Clarke does not play the short ball very well.
Broad is called straight into the attack whenever Clarke is at the crease. England has picked a squad of giant quicks, with the two-metre tall trio of Tremlett, Rankin and Finn to fight out the final fast bowler’s spot to support Anderson and Broad. There will be more short stuff to the Australian skipper.
Then there is his captaincy. On the surface, it looks brilliant. His persona looks fantastic. His fielding placements look excellent. His bowling changes look sensational. He has made some unbelievably daring declarations. In general, it has not affected his batting.
In short, his captaincy has been good for the game of cricket. But that does not mean history will mark him down as a great captain.
Great captains like Ian Chappell and Mark Taylor have a real understanding of their teammates. Being a great captain is all about people skills.
There are enough rumblings emerging from the inner sanctum – the dramas with Shane Watson and the concerns raised in Ricky Ponting’s book – for us to question this side of the captain’s captaincy.
We are entitled to ask the question: is he self-absorbed? Self-absorbed people do not make very good captains, no matter how tactically astute they are.
The third doubt over Clarke is his back. If I were running the show, I would tell Clarke to retire from one-day cricket and concentrate on Test cricket. George Bailey has been an outstanding success as one-day captain and could take on the job permanently.
Bailey is getting huge raps within the hierarchy of Australian cricket. He has not only snuck into the Test team, but also may be the next captain.
In fact, if he is in the side and Clarke gets injured, I would not be surprised if Bailey leapfrogs Brad Haddin for the captaincy. If Clarke is replaced, I would not want it to be by 36-year-old Haddin.
Does Clarke need to win the series to survive as captain? Not necessarily. It should be acknowledged that this is a highly accomplished – possibly even great – English side.
But Clarke needs Australia to be competitive. If not, changes must be made. We can’t just keep rolling along.
Rodney Hogg played 38 Tests for Australia. He took 123 wickets at an average of 28.