Under normal circumstances, Michael Clarke could expect some credit for amassing Australia’s third-highest score of the innings in an Ashes match.
On day one of the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, however, that amounted to 10, as his side capsized to 60 all out.
Even prior to Australia’s shock collapse, it was rumoured that Clarke was poised to be culled from the Baggy Green side. The captain expressed disappointment with his ongoing poor form after their defeat at Edgbaston, albeit with a touch of humour.
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Behind that humour, both for the man himself, and his followers and commentators back home, is a fear that his former peaks are becoming an increasingly distant memory.
His predecessor in the armband, Ricky Ponting, experienced a similar decline towards the end of his career, but found the opportune time to step aside. Indeed, it is not just Clarke who has been under the spotlight for the last year or so.
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The 34-year-old is one of a number of Australia’s ‘Dad’s Army’, deemed too old before the series had even started. In fact, that was one of the main reasons why England were given any chance at all by the bookmakers.
The question of retirement is ultimately one of whether his form is retrievable.
Clarke himself ruled out any chance of retirement when speaking to ESPNCricinfo. It is worth remembering, though, that he does not have a major role on the selector’s board, and so that decision could be taken out of his hands.
He may have become a stable figure in the team for a decade or more, but voices outside the camp in particular have added to the growing clamour for his place to come under question.
Former Aussie star, and current Yorkshire head coach, Jason Gillespie became involved in something of a public spat with Clarke, having suggested the captain had two Tests – until the end of the series with England, that is – to salvage some credibility at international level.
England now look to have one hand on the Ashes in spite of James Anderson’s absence through a side strain. That it has been achieved so quickly will be a major concern for Australia’s selectors, and one which will require urgent action.
What impact that will have on Clarke, both short-term and long-term remains to be seen, but it will be little surprise if he finds himself in the firing line.
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