Pup is now the big dog

It was hard to pen a column this week without talking about Australian captain Michael Clarke.
Nanjing Night Net

As day one of the Second Test in Adelaide went into hyper-drive on the back of another Clarke blitz, it became blindingly obvious that the man once nicknamed ‘Pup’ is now well and truly Australia’s big dog.

Fresh off his match-changing 259 not out at the Gabba, Clarke completely dismantled the much-vaunted South African bowling attack finishing unbeaten at day’s end on 224.

His innings was world-class, the type that shows a player completely in control of his game.

It was at times elegant, at times destructive, but always dominant.

While his swift dancing shoes down the track to the spin of Imran Tahir was a masterclass in footwork, the highlight was his five-4 over against Morne Morkel.

As spearhead Dale Steyn left the field with a question mark over his hamstring, the tall South African came back on to bowl with his flailing team in dire straits.

Clarke sensed the occasion and scorched boundary after boundary to show who was boss, leaving the number one ranked Test team submissive and unresponsive.

Scintillating stuff indeed.

The moment was breathtaking but it is the bigger picture that tells even more.

Clarke has matured into the country’s best batsman (arguably the world’s best) and has without a doubt taken the reigns of his country’s cricket team.

When he took over the captaincy from Ricky Ponting, after seemingly having been anointed since his days as a boy wonder back at the academy, some observers questioned his appointment.

Others questioned his fitness after some back complaints, and there were some who questioned his image and passion for the game.

Weren’t they wrong.

The added responsibility of leading the team has sent Clarke surging and his form with the big ‘C’ next to his name is remarkable.

His 2012 results have led to comparisons with the best ever – one Don Bradman – but without adding to the hype, it is hard to argue otherwise.

He has over 1200 runs at about 138 in 8 matches within the calendar year, including innings of 329*,210, 259* and now this double hundred.

And his batsmanship has been beautifully complimented by his spirited, proactive and creative captaincy.

He is assertive, is always thinking about how to take wickets or move the game forward, and has an enormous respect for the game.

I had the chance to see his leadership style up close in a recent Sheffield Shield encounter and while the Queensland Bulls got the better of him on that occasion, his captaincy was hugely impressive.

While Ponting would be nothing but a positive influence on the group, some might find it tough to tread their own path with the former leader still among the troops.

Not Clarke, who has his own way of doing things and is captaining the Aussies as such.

He has also worked incredibly hard on his fitness (shown in his ability to play these long innings), is a fervent trainer in the nets and manages his selector, media and sponsor commitments with aplomb.

So with Clarke playing so well and skippering with such composure, many are asking, ‘should he bat up the order?’

It is a tough one.

Does he move to three where his premier batting can even further shape Tests? Think of the message that sends to oppositions, the captain getting stuck in straight away.

Or does he maximise his impact from the five position?

It is probably the only question left to ask about Clarke since he stepped into Australian cricket’s top job.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.