Aus­tralia ad­mits to talk about Michael Clarke


Another in­sipid dis­play by a once great crick­eter as his side slumped to an em­bar­rass­ing de­feat to go 2-1 down in the Ashes se­ries had Aus­tralian pun­dits ques­tion­ing whether cap­tain Michael Clarke was in ter­mi­nal de­cline.

It re­mains highly un­likely that Clarke's reign as Aus­tralia cap­tain will end with him dropped for next week's fourth Ashes test against Eng­land but it would have been re­mark­able just a few months ago for some­one to even sug­gest the pos­si­bil­ity.

Still, Clarke him­self ad­mit­ted that his 94 runs from six in­nings at an av­er­age of 18.80 in the Ashes se­ries so far meant Aus­tralia had ef­fec­tively been play­ing with 10 men.

Drop­ping Ian Bell at sec­ond slip on 20 on Fri­day and al­low­ing the English­man to go on to make a match-win­ning un­beaten 65 only added to the im­pres­sion of a player se­ri­ously out of sorts. "A hes­i­tancy has crept into his bat­ting in the last year. He is ri­valling Jesse James in trig­ger move­ments," Gideon Haigh wrote in The Aus­tralian. "His test av­er­age here slipped be­low 50 for the first time in more than three years. No top four bats­man who has played more than a hand­ful of tests has a poorer record over the last twelve months." With a de­te­ri­o­rat­ing back con­di­tion that could flare up at any mo­ment and now well into his 12th year as a test crick­eter, some pun­dits sus­pect the 34-year-old may not be able to re­vive his form. "The prob­lems be­gin with Clarke," Greg Baum wrote in Mel­bourne's The Age news­pa­per. "He is out of form, at an age when that be­gins to look less like a lull and more a ter­mi­nal con­di­tion." Un­der the head­line "Michael Clarke's poor run of form con­tin­ues, how long will se­lec­tors wait?", Mike Col­man in Bris­bane's Courier-Mail said the clas­sic counter-at­tack­ing Clarke in­nings might now be a thing of the past.

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