A promising all-rounder

HE had no pretensions when he came on the tour to India. Michael Clarke told himself that he was on a tour to educate himself, but at the end of the series he has emerged as one of the prime candidates to keep aloft the Australian cricketing traditions in both forms of cricket.

Michael Clarke's breezy 44 off 28 balls beefed up the Australian total. — Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN-

Clarke, a good all-rounder in the making, is considered the most valuable talent in his country. His temperament and attitude are said to be great assets for a 22-year-old who knows he would be entrusted with more responsibilities in the future.

Winning the `Man of the Match' award in the final was a nice way for Clarke to end the tour to India. He was aware of his role from the moment he stepped on to the field and his blazing 44 off 28 balls was just the tonic for himself and the team. It was an innings that lifted the team's spirits and gave Australia the chance to look at the possibility of shutting out the opposition by simply maintaining the pressure.

Clarke's batting may have been a revelation for many, but he is known to be an aggressive cricketer with a wide range of shots. His quality to innovate sets him apart and he demonstrated his potential with a match-winning performance at the Eden Gardens.

Clarke is a product of the tested Australian system. He was a member of the Australian team that participated in the Youth World Cup in Sri Lanka a few years ago where India discovered the talents of Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif and Reetinder Singh Sodhi. There was not much of note from Clarke in that tournament but back home they knew he had it in him.

With Darren Lehmann pulling out on account of injury the gifted Clarke earned the opportunity to travel to India. Like Lehmann he too possesses the talent to swing a match with his batting or bowling abilities. In the final at the Eden Gardens Clarke exploded in time to give the innings a timely thrust and then came on at a critical stage to snare two wickets.

The Indians were on the right track even though the dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar had come as a blow. With Hemang Badani timing the ball so sweetly and Rahul Dravid in control it appeared India would cruise through until Clarke stepped in. He lured Badani into sweeping and top-edging and then he bowled Dravid to push India on the defensive. The home team never recovered from those two blows.

An intense cricketer, Clarke is said to be a future candidate for the Australian captaincy. As far as he is concerned, cricket is a part of his life, just as music and movies, and friends.

Clarke understands his responsibility and is focussed on a long career as an all-rounder. The performance against India in the final was an apt indication of Clarke having arrived on the big stage.