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EXCLUSIVE: Michael Clarke Australia’s best Test captain of 21st century, Tim Paine can’t be faulted, says Ian Chappell

Legendary skipper Ian Chappell has overlooked Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Steve Smith and Tim Paine to declare Michael Clarke Australia’s greatest Test captain of the 21st century.

In fact, the former 75-Test hero believes Clarke was tactically the best “by quite a margin”.

Chappell’s assessment comes amid the firestorm surrounding Paine’s leadership during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series.

That debate resurfaced in Brisbane as rookies Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur dragged a seemingly pulverised India back into the fourth Test on day three, joining forces for a 123-run partnership for the seventh wicket.

Australian greats Shane Warne, Ponting and Brett Lee have all questioned Paine’s captaincy, while former India champion Sunil Gavaskar even labelled him “no captain in my view” and said “his days as captain are numbered”.

Scathing criticism was again triggered by Paine’s decision to not declare on day four, with the wicketkeeper-batsman instead waiting for the visitors to take all 10 wickets as Australia worked on their lead.

That was despite the fact Australia must win the Brisbane Test to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, which they haven’t held since the 2014-15 summer.

But while Chappell doesn’t consider Paine Australia’s best Test captain of the 21st century, he said the veteran had impressed him at the helm.

“I wouldn’t find much to criticise him about,” Chappell told Wide World of Sports.

“He had by far the most difficult job of those captains we’re comparing him to and I think he’s handling it pretty well.

“Captaincy is a very subjective thing. Everyone’s got their own idea on how you’re supposed to captain a side.

“I think his captaincy overall has been very good.”

Waugh’s win percentage as captain (71.92) eclipses that of Ponting (62.33), Clarke (51.06), Smith (52.94) and Paine (47.82).

Waugh skippered Australia in 57 Tests, Ponting in 77, Clarke in 47 and Smith 33, while Paine is currently leading his troops for the 23rd time.

But statistics only ever tell part of the story and Chappell says Clarke’s positive style separated him from the rest.

“I think Clarke was tactically the best of them and by quite a margin. He was trying to win the game from ball number one,” Chappell said.

“I think that’s important in captaincy and he was a very imaginative captain. He didn’t run out of ideas.

“I even thought he was equal with Mark Taylor.”

One of Clarke’s strongest indicators of captaincy success is the fact he’s one of just three Australia skippers to have led a 5-0 Ashes whitewash.

Warwick Armstrong achieved the feat in the 1920-21 summer, Ponting in 2006-07 and Clarke in 2013-14.

The cyclone surrounding Paine’s captaincy will again escalate if Australia don’t salvage a final-day victory at The Gabba.

But Chappell, who captained Australia in 30 Tests in the 1970s, said Paine shouldn’t let the noise unsettle him.

“I never worried too much about what other people thought of my captaincy,” Chappell said.

“I set my own standards and as long as I met those I was happy.”

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