Cricket World Cup 2015: How much longer can Michael Clarke carry on as Australia captain?

Clarke's body continues to fail him that could lead to a permanent change at the top Down Under

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The Independent Online

These are strange times for Michael Clarke. He might have known they were coming. For Clarke, they are always coming. Two months ago he was the hero of all Australia, but now he is back in the old familiar territory, dividing opinion, courting debate. Yesterday’s loss will probably bring more of the same.

Maybe it is the lot of all cap-tains of Australia, of all captains of all cricket teams, to delight some and irritate the rest who wonder why they have the job. Ask Alastair Cook about that. But Clarke, because of a combination of scrutiny, personality and events, has taken this to a different level. It will be fascinating now to watch how long he can endure, or how long he wants to survive. Australia’s defeat yesterday on Clarke’s return was their first in 10. They had better start winning again quickly.

Clarke has been official captain of both Australia’s one-day and Test teams since the middle of 2011. Despite his seniority by then, he was neither a universally popular nor unanimous choice.

 

He had not been the most well-liked bloke in the dressing room and attracted adverse comments about his lifestyle, which amounted to his liking for being a star, fast cars and pretty girls. When he was appointed captain, there were murmurs from the back rooms but the board went ahead, possibly because there was no clear alternative.

What it swung it for Clarke was the support of the former captain Mark Taylor, as universally admired as it is possible to be. Clarke did not make it his team immediately, but he changed, or at least evolved, though a horrific tour of India nearly split the camp asunder.

However, against England in the 2013-14 Ashes series Australia seemed carefree again. They recovered from a 3-0 loss in England to whitewash the visitors for the second time in three tours. No one questioned Clarke’s authority now. But his body started arguing again. Australia had been defeated by Pakistan in the UAE, He was struggling with injury and it seemed he might not be able to play in the Test series against India.

Then Phillip Hughes, the Australia batsman, was felled by a ball and died. Clarke behaved with sincerity, nobility and compassion. The trappings of celebrity were forgotten; here was the man. Somehow he strapped an aching body together to play in the First Test against India and scored a lovely hundred, for his side, for Hughes. Then the injuries rebelled, and the Australian board asked the tyro Steve Smith to do the job. He responded by batting resplendently and winning one, drawing two of the three remaining Tests. It was obvious there was a successor in the making.

Clarke.jpg
After Phillip Hughes' death, Clarke behaved with sincerity, nobility and compassion

Until yesterday Clarke had played only two of Australia’s previous 19 one-day matches. George Bailey was the official deputy but Smith, it is clear, is being groomed for that too.

After the World Cup the next stop is effectively the Ashes. Clarke will be there if he stays more or less in one piece. But for how long after is anybody’s guess. They may know at Cricket Australia.

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