Sydney: Clarke has been an excellent captain, proactive and tactically aware. As a batsman, he delighted with well-timed shots but he was also capable of bravery under fire.
Michael Clarke. Pic/Getty Images
By keeping Clarke's bat in check along with the team total for the bulk of this Ashes series, England successfully negated the expected Australian captaincy advantage. On the two occasions when Australia did apply themselves in the first innings, Clarke was able to utilise his imagination and domination was achieved.
Second to Taylor
I'd place Clarke second only to Mark Taylor of Australia's recent captains when it came to tactical awareness. Also like Taylor, Clarke made it abundantly clear to both the opposition and his teammates that he was seeking victory from ball number one. This is paramount, as it galvanises the best players in the team and strikes fear into the heart of many an opposing skipper.
Clarke had his priorities right; win the match and in the process, entertain where possible. He was a bold captain, never afraid to "dangle the carrot" in search of victory. Too many captains rely on closures rather than declarations. The former shuts an opponent out of a game whereas the latter encourages them to seek victory in the hope it'll bring about their downfall.
It takes a brave captain to indulge in a challenging declaration because it can occasionally backfire but Clarke was prepared to take that risk. The one area where Clarke failed to match Taylor was leadership; the off field aspect of captaincy.
There were rumblings about Clarke's separation from the team off the field but he showed that leadership wasn't totally foreign to him in the wake of the Phillip Hughes tragedy.
There were many occasions when Clarke led the way with the bat. He enjoyed a golden run of three double centuries and a triple in 2012 to highlight how the extra responsibility boosted his batting prowess.
His best at Lord's 2009
The Clarke innings I rated his best was a pre-captaincy 136 at Lord's in 2009 when he defied a barrage from Andrew Flintoff and Jimmy Anderson in a losing cause. For pure bravery, his century at Newlands in 2013-14 where he was buffeted, bounced and bruised by Morne Morkel stands out, with one proviso. How did a batsman of his calibre get hit so many times?
The answer could've been his dodgy back which made a long career a highly dubious proposition. The other curious thing about Clarke's batting was his reluctance to move up the order and an almost superstitious stubbornness to remain at his favoured No 5 spot.
While Clarke won't be leaving Steven Smith the wonderful legacy of a team retaining the Ashes, at least the side displayed the required fight at the Oval for a successful rebuild. Smith has the foundation of a good side that will be his team rather than Clarke's leftovers.