Alastair Cook has offered an insight into the indecision and pressure he senses counterpart Michael Clarke might be combating this week.
Clarke’s form continues to be one of Australia’s most worrying concerns heading into the fourth Test, which starts on Thursday in Nottingham.
Clarke jumped on the front foot in his News Corp Australia column, saying it’s “rubbish” to suggest he no longer has the hunger for international cricket and won’t be retiring after the Ashes.
Cook knows the feeling.
He was stripped of England’s one-day captaincy in the midst of a batting slump, having failed to post a Test century in 35 innings over almost two years.
Cook suggested such a dry spell could impact your field placings and bowling changes.
“It’s one of those things that when you score runs … naturally your confidence is up a bit more and you’re probably more decisive in your decision making,” Cook said.
“People are always discussing what you’re doing as a captain and as a player … I suppose that comes with added pressure.
“When things go well, you get the praise for it and, when things don’t go quite so well, you’re the fall guy.”
Cook noted Clarke was a classy player, but added it was “nice when the captain of the other side is not scoring runs”.
Clarke admitted after last week’s eight-wicket loss at Edgbaston that his personal funk meant the team was playing with 10 men.
Many pundits have suggested Clarke’s stellar Test career, starting in 2004 and featuring 28 centuries, will end soon.
If England reclaim the urn, which they can do with victory at Trent Bridge or The Oval, the pressure will only rise.
In his past 28 Test innings, Clarke has reached 25 just six times and scored two hundreds.
The 34-year-old conceded he deserved criticism.
“But I’ve heard there have been a few articles questioning me for not having that hunger inside me,” Clarke wrote in his column.
“I think somebody said they could ‘see it in my eyes’ that I was finished after this series.
“That’s a complete load of rubbish.
“People can certainly have a shot at me about my performance, but they can’t have a shot at me about my desire.
“To question me on my hunger kills me, it absolutely kills me, because I pride myself on trying to get better every single day.”
Clarke declared he had “no intention to walk away from cricket”, which could make for an awkward standoff with selectors if he failed to post a decent score on the current tour.
“People are talking about how I’m going to retire after this series – well, they don’t know me,” he noted.
“I want to keep playing for Australia beyond this series, however I will be judged on performance like everyone else.”
England paceman Stuart Broad, who dismissed Clarke in the first Test at Cardiff, was delighted with the way his side had extended the captain’s woes.
“We are quite proud at the way we have bowled at him so far,” Broad said.
“He has not been getting out nicking genuinely wide half-volleys.
“We know how dangerous he is … but it has been going well for us so far.”