Two years on, Clarke still has the stomach for the fight
Sydney: Australian cricketing prospects have rarely looked bleaker than when Michael Clarke took over the test captaincy after the last Ashes series but only an out-and-out optimist would declare the outlook that much brighter two years on.
While his personal stock has risen inexorably on the back of a torrent of runs, Clarke's Australia could hardly be said to be looking ready, willing and able to contest back-to-back test series against England this year.
At the weekend, Clarke celebrated the second anniversary of his appointment as Australia's 43rd test captain with a night in hospital suffering from gastroenteritis.
If the illness was a lingering reminder of the recent tour of India, it was not the only unpleasantness to accompany him back from the sub-continent.
The 4-0 test drubbing not only once again exposed the frailties of the Australian batting but also featured off-field problems, most notably when four players were dropped for not performing a post-match assignment.
Clarke pugnaciously defended the "homework-gate" exclusions as necessary to foster the team ethic required to fulfil the ambition he starkly laid out two years ago - to become number one ranked team in all forms of the game.
The Australians flirted with taking the top test ranking off South Africa in their home series at the end of last year but ultimately went down 1-0 to the Proteas. They are currently ranked fourth.
Clarke will have plenty of time to reflect on how much progress has been made over the last two years in the next seven to 10 weeks as he recovers from hamstring and lower back injuries that ruled him out of the final test in India.
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Date 09-10-13, Duration 0:40, Views 22548