Is Michael Clarke a spent force?
2nd August 2015. It was supposed to be the last day of the 3rd Ashes Test at Edgbaston. Players from both sides were supposed to be giving out their very best in the last session to just tilt the match in their side’s favour. But it wasn’t. It was the day when Michael Clarke was probably profusely sweating it out in the nets, or maybe even introspecting.
The match was already lost for Australia 2 days ago, after a meek surrender in both the innings. Much was expected from them. Especially after their thumping 405-run victory in the previous match. But what was remarkable was Clarke’s failure with the bat, on the field and also in team selection. He had failed in the previous Tests as well, but that was overshadowed by the win and not-so-disappointing loss.
But this time, it was more telling. Clarke averages just a meagre 18.80 in Ashes 2015, having scored just 94 runs from six innings. To add to his woes, dropping Ian Bell at 2nd slip, once considered the safest position for Clarke, only added to the impression of a player out of sorts.
Such an insipid display by a once great cricketer can only make one wonder, is he in terminal decline?
Yes, he has a back condition which is far deteriorating and can flare up at any point of time. After having retired from ODIs, a sort of hesitancy has crept into his batting. No longer do you see those free flowing cover drives from the middle of the bat or the pull shots as fluent as they were only a few months ago.
His record over the past 12 months is abysmal, at best and the famous counter-attacking Clarke innings may be a thing of the past. But one thing nobody can deny is the solidity he lends to the team. He has come back strongly many a time in an injury-ridden career now well into its 12th year.
He has the ability to bounce back and overcome injury scares and is always there when the team needs him. His 161* against South Africa despite suffering from a fractured shoulder and a 128 just 10 days after losing his friend and teammate Phil Hughes is a testament to the player he is.
It may be too quick to rule him as a spent force, but even he knows that he is nearer to the end of his career than he is to its start. Clarke has himself admitted that the Australian team was effectively playing with 10 men, rather than 11, due to his sub-par performances on the field.
Calls may be growing louder for his ouster, but it is highly unlikely that he will be dropped for the next Test at Trent Bridge and his remarkable career will be put to an end so abruptly. How fortunes change so quickly in this game, when in December, even such a possibility would have been laughably dismissed.
He might be nearing the end of his career, but for the amount of swings in fortune this series has witnessed, do not be surprised if you see another classic Michael Clarke century.
It is the perfect opportunity for him to hit back at his critics. And as the commentators say, Michael Clarke doesn’t drop those!