Pup becomes the big dog

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January 6, 2012 by dixwah

Day three: India (191 & 114/2) trail Australia (4/659) by 354 runs

Michael Clarke has always broken the mould. Anointed possibly before his time as a future Test player (he made his NSW debut – ironically against India – before scoring a first-grade hundred), in the run-churning environment of Australian first-class cricket, likely rubbed his competitors up the wrong way.

Australians are funny about their cricketers. The cynics are never far away. Steve Waugh batted for himself, Ricky Ponting was a lair, Adam Gilchrist had bad hands and Phil Hughes has a rubbish technique.

Clarke was different from pretty much anything Australian cricket had ever seen. Like Shane Warne on steroids – or perhaps diuretics considering his frame – Clarke was blonde tips, add tattoos, the big studded earrings and trendy cars, red carpets and hottie girlfriends.

Australia still has this romanticism with the gold old days, literally the Border years, where cricket was tough, the beers were cold and players waited dutifully all night in the change-room until the delegated person was ready to start the team song.

Clarke-bashing though, has rarely focussed on his cricket. Sure, in his younger days, he pinged the ball at the stumps far too often, but the criticism was largely superficial. Sure he had spells of 26 digs without a ton in 2006 that saw him dropped, and 23 in the last year that saw him pick up the captaincy (?), but the main gripes were women more than wickets.

Since picking up the big C, Clarke has scored four tons in nine Tests. If the jury was out, they’ve now ruled in his favour. While India may not be as dominant on the cricket field as they are in the cricket boardroom, and we did lose a Test to New Zealand a few weeks back.

As for the declaration on 329 not out, I’m okay with it. I have a reverence for 334, and would have loved Clarke, and the next guy to get to 334 and declare, and on and on and on. This would kill two birds with one stone – plugging Bradman’s great record as an iconic number in Australian sport, and essentially wiping Matt Hayden’s 380 against some African park cricketers from the record.

A quick one on Mike Hussey, well done. Ponting’s 134 responded to critics but have also have indirectly placed some pressure on Mr Cricket as the next man to go. Hussey had the chance to cash-in against the deflated Indian attached, and took it with both hands.

Australia need to consolidate today in the field and make sure they’re playing golf tomorrow. The wickets of Sehwag and Dravid were crucial, Hilfenhaus’ off-cutter to remove the artist previously known as the wall was an absolute ripper, but a couple of missed opportunities suggested there was possibly a little bit of going through the motions going on.

Gambhir and Tendulkar have the potential to turn it on throughout day four, particularly considering the flat deck.

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