Clarke believes he can use the lessons he learnt last year to beat South Africa this time
Australia batsman Michael Clarke has revealed that he believes his path to securing his position as captain truly begun during the national team’s tour of South Africa in November 2011.
The tour consisted of just two Test matches, which ended as a draw, and this infuriated fans and cricket pundits since they wanted to see more action between two of the top Test playing nations.
South Africa pace bowler Dale Steyn summed up the series very simply by saying: “It was like the first two rounds of a boxing match, two heavyweights. Just as soon as we found our feet the Aussies were on their way home.”
Speaking exclusively to ESPNcricinfo, Clarke admitted that he had not been through a more difficult period as captain during that tour of South Africa and the series against Sri Lanka that followed.
He noted that the amount of hard work that went into winning the second Test at Johannesburg showed that the Australian team were capable of defeating the country with the best pace attack in the world.
Clarke also mentioned that having solid support from his team-mates and Cricket Australia going into this three-Test series made him feel much more confident of emerging with a win and taking the world number one Test team ranking title from the Proteas.
“That’s really been forgotten, the fact we had so many changes in that South African series and even in Sri Lanka, but we managed to still have success, I’ll never forget that, I’ll never forget the work and the time I had to put in to try to bring the team together to perform against such a good team in their own backyard. Credit to the players, because their attitude, their work ethic, their will to try to help the team win, was what managed to help us to win in Sri Lanka and then also level the series in South Africa. We’re in a better place now, that’s for sure, but so are South Africa probably. They’ll be flying high in confidence after beating England. We’ve got to play our best cricket, if we play our best cricket I’m confident. Last summer I said I was confident we could beat India if we played our best, and I feel exactly the same now. If we play at our best against South Africa in these conditions, we can beat them,” Clarke said.
In the first Test at Cape Town, Clarke fought bravely against the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, who was making his debut, but already terrorising the Australian batsmen with his brilliant line and length, to score a dazzling 151.
But, after dismissing South Africa for just 96, Australia were delivered the knockout blow by South Africa when they crashed and burned to 47 all out.
However, despite losing the match, Clarke still believes it was the best century he had scored in his Test career.
“Personally I think it’s probably the best hundred I’ve made for Australia, I needed to make runs for the team, they had a very good fast bowling attack in conditions that suited fast bowling, and while I managed to get through my first 10 balls I think I got hit in the head three or four times, hit in the gloves another six times or so, and I managed to turn that around and score some runs. But when I say that I think it’s my best Test hundred, it’s one of the most irrelevant Test hundreds because of how the game panned out. I was very disappointed in the second innings, I didn’t make many runs. I’d just scored 150 so I was the one player who was in form and I needed to make runs in that second innings. I’ll never be happy, however many runs I’ve made I want to make more. I’m greedy when it comes to batting, I want to keep making runs and help this team win. If we’re not winning, you won’t see me happy, that’s for sure,” Clarke added.
Clarke was extremely dejected after losing the first Test, but his fearless attitude drove the Australians to a two wicket win over the South Africans in the second Test.
“My value on winning has always been the same, do whatever the team needs you to do to win. If you need to try to hit your first ball for six, because that’s what the team needs, then you do that. That hasn’t changed over the years, I’ve always felt that way, I guess it re-emphasised that, it showed me that I’d rather get a duck and win. When you’re younger you don’t see things that way, it’s one of the things Ricky told me when I took over the captaincy, he said you’ll see the team have success and that’ll give you as much if not more joy than your own performance, and that is 100% true. Jo’burg is a great example, I didn’t score many runs in that game, but the fact that we still won, I enjoyed that a lot more than making 150 in Cape Town,” Clarke said.