Sunday, 24 March 2013
Since Michael Clarke first picked up a cricket bat there has been no shortage of attention surrounding him. The young blonde Sydney boy has always had flare with the bat, attracted attention in his personal life and drawn mixed opinions about his character as a player and as a person.
At a young age he burst into the national side and, surrounded by mature greats of the game in the dressing room, he predictably gained the nickname 'Pup.' This name was given more for the fact he was cocky and behaved like an over excited puppy, gnawing at the heels and the patience of his opponents but especially his team mates. England's Jimmy Anderson famously recalled an incident in the dressing rooms after another hard fought ashes test where Australia were the victors. Players from both sides were enjoying a drink or two together and reportedly getting along well except Clarke who, according to Anderson, was carrying on like an idiot. Anderson, chatting to Damien Martyn at the time, was so aggravated by the annoying young Pup that he picked up a cricket pad and playfully hit Clarke over the head. This action seemed so unanimously accepted by both teams that everyone carried on with their conversations unfazed, except of course for an angry Clarke.
A few years of growing up, a hair cut and a captaincy later, Clarke now has the Australian public on his side. Behind closed doors however, there still seems to be some conflict. One thing is for certain, if you are an Australian cricketer you would do well to stay friends with Michael Clarke. Simon Katich is a perfect example of how one can sabotage one's own career. In a famous bust up after a game Katich pinned Clarke to the wall with his hands around his throat after Clarke apparently refused to sing the team song after their win. When Clarke later became captain of the side, Katich was soon ousted from the team never to return to the test arena.
It is of common opinion that Steve O'Keefe, the NSW left arm off spinner, should be a regular in the Australian team in all three formats of the game. For a number of seasons now O'Keefe has been statistically the best spinner in the country taking the most wickets and being the most economical. In addition to this he’s also a very handy batsman with leadership experience. However O’Keefe has been overlooked for international duties at every turn and the question of why he is not playing has been asked time and time again. Yet the answer has never been satisfactory. My personal theory is that Clarke and O'Keefe have had a rocky history in the NSW camp and this possible clash has cost O'Keefe and Australia greatly. Especially so now as Australia are struggling to find an effective spinner in India.
With a very young side, Clarke has been the perfect leader on the field. Leading by example and extracting the best out of his rookie bowlers he has barely put a foot wrong, but his leadership skills have been tested during the recent tour of India where there have been some unprofessional goings on in the Australian camp. With a toxic mixture of bad behaviour and lacklustre preparations the team has incurred tough disciplinary action from Clarke and the coach Mickey Arthur. This has resulted in four players being dropped from selection for the third test. For better or worse Clarke has shown a strong, no nonsense posture to his squad that has magnified his 'my way or the highway' form of captaincy.
It seems that Clarke has come full circle from being the misbehaving student to the strict school master, laying down the law and teaching his class the lesson he once learned.