Ashes 2015: Michael Clarke's captaincy to be reviewed as Ashes defeat looms for Australia


Ashes 2015: Michael Clarke's captaincy to be reviewed as Ashes defeat looms for Australia
- 7th August 2015

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ASHES: AUSTRALIA'S HOPES SUNK AT TRENT BRIDGE

Where does 60 all out in 18.3 overs rank in the hall of shame of Australian batting? Jesse Hogan and Greg Baum digest Australia's calamitous day in Nottingham which ended with them trailing England by 214 runs.

Cricket Australia powerbrokers are set to discuss the future of Michael Clarke's Test captaincy, which is under increasing peril after Australia's Ashes debacle at Trent Bridge.

Just months after leading Australia to a World Cup triumph on home soil, Clarke is on very shaky ground, his four-year reign as captain and decorated career in grave danger of coming to an inglorious end.

On shaky ground: Michael Clarke leads his team off the field after the opening day debacle at Trent Bridge. Photo: Philip Brown

Fairfax Media understands Clarke's leadership will come under intense scrutiny when senior Australian cricket figures convene for a board meeting on Friday.

The imminent surrender of the Ashes will be the trigger for renewed debate about Clarke's post but there was already growing discontent among the top brass of Australian cricket with their on-field leader before the fourth Test. The stunning capitulation on Thursday night will only have increased their anger at the team in what has been a troubled defence of the urn.

It is unclear what action will be taken on Clarke but the picture is expected to be clearer after team performance manager Pat Howard, who has been on tour, addresses the meeting.

Howard is well respected by the board and is also a close ally to chairman of selectors Rod Marsh, with whom Clarke has been feuding behind the scenes for close to a year.

As the cases of Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting have shown, a lack of runs does not necessarily spell the end for a captain but Clarke is in a different boat.

He is battling the dual whammy of being a horribly out of form 34-year-old in charge of an underperforming team. His continued distance from his charges during the turbulent tour has also been noted by key decision-makers and ex-players.

Australia's body language while in the field on day one was also heavily criticised by former Test gloveman Ian Healy, who was irked by their lack of apparent enthusiasm.

While a mid-series handover to Steve Smith – who led impressively during the home series against India – is considered unlikely, there is the real possibility this Ashes campaign will be Clarke's last at the helm.

Clarke's future as a Test player is ultimately at the hands of selectors but even if they were to stick by him and recommend him as captain for the tour of Bangladesh in October his appointment would still have to be ratified by an unhappy board.

Clarke may yet read the writing on the wall by retiring but he used his newspaper column this week to declare "I have no intention to walk away from cricket".

It is the latest piece of off-field defiance from Clarke, who was at odds with selectors in November over how best to manage his return from a hamstring injury.

While Clarke won admiration for his leadership after the tragic death of of Phillip Hughes, he was again in conflict with selectors weeks later regarding the benchmarks he needed to achieve to prove his fitness for the World Cup after undergoing hamstring surgery.

Although Clarke will bear the brunt of the Ashes criticism, Australia's meltdown with the bat has again exposed their trouble against the moving ball.

This, and the team's approach to facing spin bowling, was an issue highlighted by the Argus report commissioned after the 2010-11 Ashes humiliation.

"These shortcomings clearly exist at Australian level. They must also exist at state level because that is where the Australian players are developed," the report said.

Should Australia lose the series, as expected, they will then have suffered defeats on raging turners (India, 2013), flat pitches (Pakistan in the Middle East, 2014) and on seaming pitches.