Sydney: Former Australian skipper Ian Chappell feels Michael Clarke's unbeaten triple hundred against India in the second Test shows that he is buoyed rather than bogged down by captaincy and should come higher up the batting order.
"Following his chanceless triple century, now would be the ideal time for Clarke to assume the role of first-drop batsman in a side that he's quickly moulding into a competitive unit," Chappell wrote in The Herald Sun.
"Clarke's four centuries in 10 Tests as captain are ample evidence of a man who is buoyed by the extra responsibility rather than weighed down by expectation. He's a natural captain and is now emerging as a strong leader. His influence on the field is part of the reason why the Australian pace attack has really blossomed and it's easy to see they have great confidence in the captain and his decisions," he reasoned.
Chappell said like his predecessors, Clarke has also got a bit of luck given that Australia's pace attack seems much more in command in the ongoing series against India. "A captain needs a bit of luck and Clarke has benefited from the resurgence in Australia's pace-bowling stocks but it's a good skipper who makes the most of his good fortune. Clarke is a good captain," he said.
"He has already stamped his authority on this side, which is another sign of strong leadership. And if he can help inexperienced players such as Warner and Marsh ride out their current crisis, he will enhance his reputation as a leader even further," he added.
Chappell also praised senior batsmen Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, saying their hundreds covered up for the top-order failure. "Michael Clarke, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey performed so well and with such supreme confidence that it's easy to forget Australia were 3-37," Chappell said.
"Clarke's team was poised to slide down the same slippery slope the Indian batsmen had just endured until the junior members were rescued by the senior citizens. The Australian selectors won't have forgotten that parlous position, but they have forgiven. Consequently David Warner, Ed Cowan and Shaun Marsh have been given another chance at the WACA to prove they are worthy of top-order places," he added.
Chappell said opener David Warner, who has come a cropper so far, needs to work on the mental aspect of his game. "Warner has plenty of skill, and it's a matter of whether he has the nerve to continue playing aggressively against top-class new-ball bowling.
"Playing naturally is his best chance of succeeding, and if he does he'll be an invaluable asset to Australia. However, he may have to make a few modifications along the way," he said.
"If he wants a clue to the mental challenges ahead, he only has to ponder Virender Sehwag and imagine the debate he's currently having with himself after a few failures in this series," he added.
Chappell also predicted a short run for new opener Ed Cowan as he feels a fit-again Shane Watson would shut the door on him. "Being an older debutant, Ed Cowan is a short-term solution in the opening position. He's solid but limited, and Shane Watson's return to fitness could signal the end of his fairytale. Watson's presence and experience at the top of the order could also be a big benefit to Warner," he said.