SYDNEY • Australia captain Michael Clarke's Test career could be over if he fails yet again with the bat. The fourth Ashes cricket Test starts at Trent Bridge tomorrow, and Clarke needs to score runs to rally his team and salvage his own prospects.
Australian media said yesterday that he looks "lost" and knows the end is near.
Scores of 10 and three during Australia's eight-wicket defeat by England in the third Test at Edgbaston last week left Clarke with a series aggregate of 94 runs in six innings at an average of under 19.
With Australia 1-2 down in the five-Test series, he must step up or face the fact that he should retire, cricket writers said.
"Clarke's issues extend beyond his batting," said the Sydney Morning Herald's chief sports writer Andrew Webster.
"His choices as captain without hardened and experienced heads like (wicket-keeper) Brad Haddin and (all-rounder) Shane Watson next to him in the middle are being questioned like never before.
"But it's with the willow that he desperately needs to turn the beat around."
Webster added that Clarke's face explained his issues more than his meagre run total. "His expression with each cheap dismissal is undeniable: It is a blank expression of utter bewilderment," he said.
"He isn't annoyed but lost."
Clarke, 34, himself admitted that Australia have been "playing with 10 players" and Peter Lalor, cricket writer for The Australian, wrote that failure in the fourth Test "spells an almost certain end to his career".
"It's on his mind and he knows in his heart that the end is near but like all greats he would like to go out on top," Lalor said.
But he added that "Clarke is a champion and if he pulls out of this form slump, there is a possibility the team can win the series or retain the Ashes with a draw".
The Sydney Daily Telegraph noted that selectors would be reluctant to axe Clarke or let him retire, in view of the two-Test tour of Bangladesh in October, where his pedigree as a quality player of spin will be invaluable.
"Those quick to close the curtains on the out-of-form skipper might have failed to realise there's a two-Test tour of Bangladesh to follow," wrote Ben Horne.
"Even in Clarke's form slump, is there anyone else in Australian cricket, with the possible exception of Steve Smith, who plays spin better then the skipper?"
If Clarke is axed, Usman Khawaja is seen as his most likely replacement. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE