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Another Wonder From Down Under
32-Year-Old Pacer Stuart Clarke Emerges With A Bang

By Orin Davidson
May 31st, 2008
As Australia tightens their grip on the Frank Worrell trophy, going into the decisive game of their mini Test rubber against West Indies, well in command, the world champions would be satisfied their player- production line is showing no signs of running dry.

First Test Man of the Match Stuart Clarke, the latest from the country’s fast bowling factory is introducing his class to West Indian fans, hitting the ground running with a brilliant eight wicket-haul that shot down West Indies’ progression towards an upset victory earlier this week.

Clarke’s exploits were not the first example of him carrying Australia’s bowling attack to the promised land, and surely it has now placed himself firmly in contention as Australian’s main strike bowler.

Brett Lee was there before him and based on his reputation and all his accomplishments, was expected to be Australia’s new trump card following the retirement of Shane Warne and Glen McGrath.

Clarke has come out of the blue though, as the man with the skill and mental strength to spearhead the most potent bowling attack in the world.

He does not have the pace or the flair of Lee, but at the ripe age of 32 is bringing all of the toughness, all of the fitness and all the confidence from his years earning his keep with New South Wales State in the Australian first division.

While maintaining immaculate accuracy to exploit his ability to produce each way movement, Clarke is forcibly enhancing the value of medium fast bowlers who can swing the ball.

Before the series is over West Indies would discover the magnitude of their loss of Pedro Collins to the English county championship. He is one rare type from the Region with that ability to cause havoc with consistent control and movement both ways.
Over the years Sri Lanka has gotten yeoman service from Chaminda Vaas, and the Indian seamers Zaheer Khan, RP Singh, Isanth Sharma and Irfan Pathan have contributed significantly to making their team the second best in world Test competition, despite the rankings, after Australia.
Pakistan’s ace bowler Wasim Akram was not super fast, but his devastating swing made him one of the most feared bowlers of his time.
Just ask Brian Lara.

Not only now, but you can go back in time when the exploits of Australian Bob Massey and Richard Hadley of New Zealand were almost unplayable with their swing.

Clarke embodies most of those qualities and most likely will be the key difference in West Indies continuing their successful trend of winning at least one match in a short Test series as they did recently against South Africa and Sri Lanka.

If Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain was sought for advice by the West Indies technical team or England’s Michael Vaughn, the homesters would’ve been warned to look out for Clarke and be ready with perfect defense.

The South Africans were caught off guard by the rookie right-armer when at 30 years, he snared 20 victims at an astounding average of 15.5 in only three games, in South Africa.

That was in 2006, and later that year, Clarke had the English reeling with another 20-plus (26) haul that every member of the side would admit contributed heavily to them suffering their first Ashes whitewash in more than three decades.

If he was down for an off series, the Sydneysider took 14 off India next, which happened to land him among the top three wicket-takers for Australia and third in the averages, in four Tests.

West Indies batting is among the weakest in world cricket and Clarke has wasted little time in exposing the footwork challenged Caribbean players.

Lee was firing at 100 percent in that game in Jamaica. He was fast and furious, got the old ball to move late and even knocked out cold the home team’s premier batsman Shiv Chanderpaul. But still at the end of the day, it was Clarke who emerged with the better statistics and the Man of the Match award.

When everyone saw how Mitchell Johnson and Stuart McGill struggled in that game, Clarke proved clearly that he is in a different class.

His returns in Jamaica might’ve forced West Indies captain Chris Gayle to postpone his return to the team. Of late Gayle has developed a tendency to shirk his responsibilities at the top of the batting order. He dropped down the order against Vaas and company against Sri Lanka a few weeks back and when everyone was expecting his return to the fold now, after being selected in the 14 man for the current most win game in Antigua, we were surprised to see Gayle absent for the starting 11.

It means that Devon Smith who endured a tortured existence in the first Test, highlighted by an astonishing decision, so rattled he was, to leave alone a straight delivery, that had him plumb lbw to Clarke in the second innings, will have to take on the prime responsibility of handling the Ausssie attack, led by the latter.

Smith’s partner Xavier Marshall, the newcomer opener once again finds himself thrown into the deep end as he was when given a premature West Indies international debut as an 18-year-old against the said Australians Down Under.

He has not made any significant progress since, as even his most recent Carib Beer West Indies regional league returns never suggested an instant return to the squad now.

And with Ramnaresh Sarwan, Runako Morton, Dwayne Bravo and Dinesh Ramdin still displaying the same weaknesses of old, Clarke and company must be licking their chops.

This tour could not have been a better one for Sydney-born medium pacer to cement his place as the new Australian trump card.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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