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Sometimes you just can’t win

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Before we begin, TebowMania has made it down under. Apparently he took his underdog team to a massive playoff win. And oh, he did it with an 80 yard touchdown in the very first play of overtime.

Tebow, one of the polarising focuses of the popularGod and sportseries, now brings his A game to New England, ‘my team’, (sorry, Buffalo), where I’m hoping God is focused on a different playoff game, or you know, world poverty or something…

Tim Tebow 'Tebowing' after the playoff game winner against highly fancied Pittsburgh

What does he have to do?!

We looked at Michael Clarke’s amazing 329 not out in Tuesday’s post (thanks again, Craig) and all agreed that it was far superior to Lara’s selfish 400… Ok, maybe not, but it was an incredible feat, but just where it ranks is up for debate. As it should be…

One of the interesting facets to come to light straight after his effort was why he declared the team’s innings over when he was a mere 5 runs away from Mark Taylor’s and Sir Donald Bradman’s 334.

Call me an idealist, but I simply figured that –

  • He’d waited for Mike Hussey to get his 150,
  • Realised that it was a dead batting pitch and it would take a while to get India out, which it did,
  • Hoped that some early wickets would build confidence and hope in his bowlers, again, which it did!
  • Banked on early wickets + increased confidence + a good night’s sleep for his bowler’s after a short, sharp session would bode well for Day 4 … which it … well, you know.

Clarke after sacrificially / egotistically declaring on 329

Has to be loved

It’s funny to me just how polarising an athlete Michael Clarke is. He came up in the post where I was missing – literally and emotionally – the entire cricket season.

Here’s what I wrote then! – ‘Ok you haters, back off. I do not understand the vitriol directed towards our captain one bit. His numbers stack up, he’s a genuine man of character and integrity, but we bust his chops because … why? He’s Gen Y, likes his watches and fast cars, has a tat and (had) a supermodel girlfriend??! Come on! Seriously, you think you’d embrace Allan Border – ‘Captain Grumpy’ – if he came along now? Don’t kid yourself. If the behaviour that our previous generations of players got up to when on tour – completely unreported, mind you – occurred today, it would make Shane Warne look like James Hird. As in, perfect.’ Ok then, kudos to James Hird.

Admittedly, this didn't help his public perception...

I honestly thought that the fact that we’re 2-0 up over India and he just enjoyed the innings of a lifetime would silence the unwarranted negativity towards him.

Not so.

Conspiracy theories

There’s a line of thought that says Clarke purposely avoided surpassing Taylor’s and Sir Don’s 334 so that the public would love him. The theory continues that not breaking that figure would demonstrate humility and would reflect a man without ego, just the opposite, apparently, from reality.

He wants the Australian public to embrace him so badly that he gave up a shot at stature in making 334+, history in getting by Hayden’s awesome 380, and immortality in going past Lara’s record 400…

Forget the sound captaincy and Mike Hussey 150 rubbish. This was all about one person. Look, I love a good conspiracy theory. I’m more excited about the release of ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy‘ than anyone, but…

Seriously?

What does he have to do!? It made me realise that sometimes, the right players come along at the wrong time. The epitome of this was Kobe Bryant. It was always said that the best player after Michael Jordan would struggle to find mainstream acceptance. That was certainly the case with Kobe, as his game was constantly picked apart and negatively compared to the greatest ever. Then ‘Denver’ happened (rape charges) and that was the end of that. Clarke reminds me of cricket’s version of WWE polariser John Cena – nicest guy in the world, stands for all the company could possibly want him to be, stays in shape, funny as hell, and they hate him!

The opposite of this was Allan Border – ‘Captain Grumpy’ came along and gave Australia a much-needed hard edge, a determination and drive that saw us rise from easybeats to a formidable team. We loved him for it. Averaging over 50 couldn’t have hurt either! You think his constantly high level of agitation and notoriously unfriendly demeanour would work now in today’s ‘information now’ and media saturated environment? Not a chance.

Allan Border, Captain Grumpy - try that approach now and see how far it takes you...

Clarke took over a team in a transitional period that was always going to struggle to find its identity. And form. There are positive signs already, but if the tables were turned and we were 2-0 down, there would be deafening calls for Clarke’s resignation as captain. There’s absolutely no one who could replace him, but as the late, great Leslie Nielsen said, that’s not important right now.

Clarke does all the right things and says all the right things and still struggles to find complete acceptance from a fan base conditioned to dominant winning. That time is long over and just as the haters need to cease their fascination with his tattoos and current or ex-girlfriends, Clarke needs to tune out the opinions of those that don’t matter and focus on his job, which he seems pretty adept at doing. Hopefully what is going on below the surface is consistent with what we see and he is genuinely at ease with himself and his role as Australian captain. Winning and making runs will bring them around eventually.

And even if it doesn’t, it’s not his fault. Maybe it’s just a case of right player, right person, wrong time.

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About petek8

Pete Evans has just finished going 12 months without watching any sport. The journey stemmed from a sense that the balance was out-of-whack with my time and my priorities. Everything seemed to revolve around creating enough time and space to fit in the last game, games, recap shows or space to surf the net for the latest numbers and analysis. The cycle never ends - one season leads into another, seasons overlap if you follow various sports and the media's insatiable appetite for a new 'story' means that even the greatest of achievements aren't heralded for more than 3 days. So I stepped away from the machine for awhile and intentionally engaging with the journey by writing about it.

3 responses »

  1. The whole “why declare so close to 334” debate is bizarre. It was relevant for Taylor because it was a record score for an Australian. But now that Hayden has a 380, the 334 figure is just another score.

    Reply
    • It is bizarre, but I think it has some merit. Hayden might have crashed past 334 on his way to 380, but because of the inept Zimbabwean lineup and the fact that it is the irrepressible Sir Don (as well as Taylor!), the 334 number is still a mystical figure, not just another score.

      Reply
  2. Interesting to contrast Clarke with Beckham. I think there are a lot of parallels in terms of the image they project. Beckham played on the rags to riches wonder boy story (aided by the same back-story as Posh), whereas Clarke strolled into Australia’s greatest ever test team as the precocious young batsman. I think having the supermodel girlfriend, fast cars and sufficient bling has not resonated with the common cricket fan.

    Reply

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