MICHAEL Clarke is a man with a taste for big scores and on Friday at Adelaide Oval he seemed well on the way to his fifth double-century before falling for 148. But despite two doubles in similarly batsman-friendly conditions in Dunedin this week, there has been a noticeable decline in batsmen going "big".
Are batsmen losing the art of making double hundreds in Test cricket? In the first decade of this century there were 95 scores of 200 or more in Test cricket. But this year, there has been seven. Why the decline?
Is it because more countries are preparing pitches to their own liking? Or is it that batsmen aren't getting the pitches to their liking? To make double tons you need to bat for long periods, and with Twenty20 cricket around, have the techniques or attitudes of today's batsmen to bat for long periods changed? Do batsmen still have the hunger to bat forever? Or is making 100 enough for them?
Ashes - 2nd Test, Day 2: Australia v England
Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin stole the show as Australia dominated England during day 2 of the second Test. Follow us at twitter.com/photosSMH Photo: AFP
There have been 3663 hundreds in Test cricket. Only 172 times has a batsman gone on to reach 200. That is a 21-1 ratio, which proves how difficult they are to make. The Adelaide Oval has given up more double hundreds than any other Test ground, with 20.
So what are the common denominators of making a double hundred? It has to come from within. Batsmen who make multiple double hundreds have a hunger like no other. A burning desire to just bat.
I asked Michael Clarke what was the answer and he said: "Don't change your tempo, just cash in on bad balls!" Clarke also said he hated sitting on his backside watching others bat.
Michael Clarke of Australia acknowledges the crowd as he walks off the ground. Photo: Getty Images
Clarke also mentioned that he didn't get bored when batting. These guys seem to like their own company. Players such as Don Bradman, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Kumar Sangakkara, Javed Miandad and Marvan Atapattu have seemed to be in their own world.
All batsmen have routines, but great players have magnificent powers of concentration and know when to switch on and off. They zone in when new balls are taken or when it's close to an end of a session. I call it "crease management". They know how to conserve energy and when to concentrate really hard.
If you want to make 200, then you better have the fundamentals in place. First, you better be fit, physically and mentally. Making a double tends to take more than seven hours of batting, so be ready for the long haul. People also think that if you made a double century, you must have just smashed the balls. They never look at how good your defence was or how you paced your innings.
Clarke made four doubles in 2012. Those numbers are unheard of in Test cricket, so how did he do it? Yes, he needs skill, but he is super fit and plays equally well off the front and back foot. And that's where the magic answer lies.
A forgotten clue to why certain batsmen make multiple doubles is that they are surrounded by good batsmen. Interestingly, Lara didn't quite have the batsmen who scored regular 100s to bat around him like others did. Just goes to show what a wonderful player he was.
I think the big concern for the lack of big scores today is the standards of the pitches. No doubt pitches are doctored more and seem to be falling apart on days four and five. Most of the pitches in the world today lack the bounce to play lots of shots off the back foot to hurt opposition bowlers, and reverse swing slows down scoring rates.
Every bowler worth his salt can reverse it now and batsmen haven't properly worked it out yet. Also, the decision review system is claiming a lot of batsmen. Batsmen need a bit of luck to make a double as technology doesn't really help them.
The last piece of the jigsaw was offered to me by Greg Chappell, who said: "Once you have made a double, it gets easier. Guys who have made a lot of doubles make one early in their career. You can't teach it. You learn how to do it along the way. Coaches can't teach you that."