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Heir apparent Clarke`s focus on cementing spot

Sports Desk |
Update: 2010-07-19 01:06:36

LEEDS: Michael Clarke may be Australia`s captain in waiting but for now the batsman is adamant his main priority is to focus on making a success of his new role at number four.

Clarke was made captain of Australia`s Twenty20 side after star batsman and Test captain Ricky Ponting opted out of that format.

But the responsibility of leading at the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean did not appear to do too much for his run-scoring, with Clarke averaging 15.33 in a tournament where Australia lost to England in the final in Barbados in May.

Clarke has spent the bulk of his Test career at five but, such has been his form over the past 12 months, Ponting has asked him to move up a spot and so swap with Michael Hussey.

His previous experience of life at four was not a succesful one, with a top score of 39 in five innings after the 2005 Ashes before he was dropped from the Australia team.

When he returned, six months later, it was at number five.

"Ricky came and grabbed Michael Hussey and myself at training the morning of the Derby game and told us what was happening," Clarke told reporters at Headingley here on Monday ahead of the second Test against Pakistan.

"For me it hasn`t fazed me. When I was younger I cared more about the position I batted. After getting dropped from the Australian team, for me it was always just about being the team, it doesn`t matter where I bat."

Batting higher up the order should give Clarke, whose Test-best score is the 168 he made against Pakistan in Hobart in January, more time to play longer and larger innings.

"You probably get in a little bit earlier against the newer ball and if you make a big score, you can probably make a really big one, knowing you`ve got at least one more batter behind you," said Clarke, who made 47 and 12 in Australia`s 150-run first Test win against Pakistan at Lord`s last week.

"But my role doesn`t really change, you play the same way. Conditions dictate how much fast bowling you face compared to how much spin you face. I haven`t changed my game at all because I`m batting No. 4."

Clarke has enjoyed success at Headingley, where the Pakistan finale starts on Wednesday, having scored 93 at Yorkshire`s headquarters during Australia`s innings win in the fourth Test against England here last year.

But given his own experience of being dropped, and the fact his career has been played out against the backdrop of a degenerative back condition, Clarke is taking nothing for granted.

"I never think you`ve cemented a place when you are playing at the highest level, in any sport," Clarke said. "I think everyone`s spot is exactly the same, you are under pressure all the time.

"There is always someone who wants your spot, whether you are the captain or you have played five Tests.

"The class of someone like Ricky is he has not only been able to perform for such a long period of time, but to lead as well."

BDST: 2258 HRS, JULY 19, 2010

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