Michael Clarke is struggling. This time not with his back but with the bat.
The scores of 38, 4, 7, 32*, 10 and 3 don’t really show a massive decline in form but when these scores are conjured by the captain of Australia in an Ashes series in England, you know he’s under the scanner.
The scrutiny has intensified after Australia were walloped at Edgbaston. (I Need to contribute: Michael Clarke)
It’s been a strange Ashes series so far. England landed the first punch at Cardiff. Australia counter-punched at Lord’s and just when one thought that a 400-plus runs defeat will deflate Alastair Cook’s men, Edgbaston happened.
England not only tore the Aussies apart at Birmingham, they took a shot at their pride. The Three Lions opened up the Aussies like a can of beans in just three days. Everything went south for Australia — the batting choked, the bowling looked ordinary and Clarke turned up with Teflon-coated hands. (Australia’s Batting Collapse Pathetic: Boycott)
May be the Lord’s victory injected a few ounces of complacency into the Aussies. May be they thought that it was enough to knock the stuffing out of the English. They dropped their guard and boy, didn’t the jab land right on their face! (Lehmann Ready to be Patient with Struggling Clarke)
The sting of that hit though, was felt by Clarke.
He looked unsure about his batting and while marshalling his resources on-field, he lacked his usual swagger. There were no innovative field placing, no surprise bowling changes and certainly there was no banter.
Never in his career has Michael Clarke been so subdued. May be for the first time, he is feeling the heat and along with him, Australia are feeling the pinch too. (Bell Ready For Australian Backlash)
The Australian camp is not a happy place now. Although both Clarke and Darren Lehmann have tried their best to keep a lid on the situation, the simmering tension is evident and before the fourth Test, England suddenly have all the momentum.
Michael Clarke doesn’t have many friends. Even in his own team, he’s seen as a man who likes to keep his distance and after his dismal show in the first three Tests, suggestions about handing the baton to Steve Smith have started to gain strength.
However, in his coach, Clarke’s found an ally and Lehmann is ready to back the captain “as long as he needs”.
Clarke’s bad form though have put the Australian selectors in a strange dilemma. The Aussie selectors are known to be pragmatic and not often do they carry a player who’s struggling. They are ruthless with non-performers and hardly extend a long rope. Brad Haddin found it the hard way but axing Clarke in the middle of the Ashes might not be the smartest thing.
Over the years, Clarke has been a super performer for Team Australia. Right from his debut against India in Bangalore he has been the golden boy for the Aussies. His removing of his helmet and donning the Baggy Green just before his reached his debut hundred was one of very few romantic moments in modern cricket history.
Clarke’s speech during Phil Hughes funeral touched every cricket fan and his infamous ‘get ready for a broken f****** arm’ will be remembered as one of the best instances of Aussie arrogance.
But arrogance only suits the successful and right now, Clarke is down in the dumps. He might have a sense of humour about his dismal state but at Trent Bridge, Australia need their 11th man to rise from the Ashes and deliver a knock-out punch.