A leader's challenge: What Michael Clarke must do now
In the end, all it took was a review for Australia to lose the first Ashes Test by a measly 14 runs. The look on the Australian captain’s face said it all – disappointment and shock left him completely speechless. After all, when you make a spirited comeback into a game that was, for all practical purposes, lost to the hosts, the after-shocks of the defeat are powerful enough to sap whatever little confidence is left inside you.
That’s when you begin to question your strengths, your abilities, and your faith in your own game. And once you begin doubting yourself, you slip further and further into making more errors of judgment, and bring on more misery. What’s worse, it rubs off on your teammates and affects your functioning as a single cohesive unit.
This is what Michael Clarke must address before the second Test gets underway at Lord’s on Thursday.
In his statement to the press a while ago, the skipper stated that coach Darren Lehmann has united the team after the Warner fiasco and Mickey Arthur’s sacking days before the Ashes began. While it is commendable of a captain to back his coach in public, it doesn’t say much about his leadership abilities.
Sure, the coach is there to boost the sagging morale of his players, but Lehmann can only do so much. It’s the skipper who has to steer his boys through five days of tough cricket, and he has to do that on a consistent basis. Clarke has done so, but he has succeeded only partially.
For starters, “Pup” needs to have a heart-to-heart with each one of his players. Just like Steve Waugh did when he took over as captain, Clarke must take each teammate aside and tell him of his expectations. He needs to call them out and challenge them to give better than their best. He must back his bowlers when they go through a rough phase and put faith in his batsmen to stay at the wicket and score runs.
When deciding strategy, Clarke needs to keep in mind the collective strengths & weaknesses of his team. Each member of the team is an accomplished performer, and the Sydney lad will need all his powers of persuasion to get the best out of them. That’s where “Boof” can play the supporting role.