It’s ironic that on the exact same day that I had always planned to draft this piece about our Australian cricket captain and the responsibilities of leadership that have seemingly catapulted him into the highest echelon of batsman, this article came out.
If you can’t be bothered clicking on it, it’s an apology from the editors of The Age. Their compulsion for such an act? For ever calling into question Clarke’s ‘previous lifestyle’ and the choices he made in regards to girlfriends, clothes and advertisements.
As you may know, I have been ‘on’ the Clarke haters for some time now. I could never understand the vitriol directed his way. In a poll two years ago, over 70% of 5,000 people indicated that they wanted someone else as captain.
Was it the tatts? Surely not. Buddy Franklin has those and he’s pretty much noted as the most explosive, talented player the game has seen for some time.
Was it the pretty boy looks and the multiple endorsements? Name a well-known cricketer not spruiking some product or another. And enough with the Swisse vitamins already – they don’t do you any good!
Ummm, well was it because he had a supermodel girlfriend and once bought her a car?? The fact that he likes expensive watches? Because he’s lithe and not built like David Boon?!
Or was it that he just doesn’t fit our pigeon-holed ideals as to what a cricket captain should be? Look at our history at gruff, no-nonsense, get the job done leaders we have had in the sport the past few decades before Clarke –
- Allan ‘Captain Grumpy’ Border
- Steve ‘I refuse to play the hook shot or smile’ Waugh
- Mark ‘I’m so boring I can only sell air conditioners’ Taylor
- Ricky ‘hostile, aggressive, in-your-face’ Ponting
Shane Warne, one of the great tacticians was overlooked because of his off-field lifestyle. It probably did wonders for his image. He wasn’t the face of his team or his country when his many run-ins were taking place. Easier to forgive that way. Plus he’s the greatest bowler that’s ever been … by far. That didn’t hurt either.
Clarke’s character or actions contained none of these questionable elements. He has always kept a clean image off the field, says all the right things, never brought into question the combative manner in the way we compete, plays the media game beautifully. So he likes big, new, shiny watches. So what!?
He hasn’t changed. We have.
Because he’s making runs and we’re winning.
Aussies love a front-runner and making a thousand runs in four innings against countries like India and South Africa whilst leading us out of the Test doldrums is about as good as it gets for a rookie leader.
I just hope that our faith in the bigger picture holds up when he’s not making 200+ every time he steps up the crease or when we get our butts handed to us in the forthcoming tour of England.
I’d rather we remind them of the greatest goal ever by Swedish gun Zlatan against the Pommies than reverting back to whinging and complaining about our leader, looking for some fathomable excuse beyond ‘they were better than us’.
Take it on the chin when it happens, Australia. We won’t be winning 16 Test matches in a row again anytime soon…
The makings of a leader …
If nothing else, Clarke’s progression in his on-field performances demonstrate that while many may not have seen him as a good fit, and although 36% of 2,000+ in a poll today still aren’t sure (what on earth does he have to do?!!), the role as Australian Cricket Captain sits very comfortably with one Michael J Clarke.
A close friend of mine says that for many of life’s great lessons, he has learnt them on the sporting field. A humble, reliable man of integrity, he’s obviously studied hard.
We may take the mickey out of sport in these pages from time to time, ok … most of the time! However, it is undeniable that there is so much about ourselves, our mates and the world around us that we can absorb from stepping into a competitive environment in the sporting realm.
I have been fortunate enough to witness first-hand those lessons throughout the year with ‘the little soccer team that could’ – the kids school team I coach from a sporting minnow that went all the way to the State Finals. What they have acquired in terms of learning about sacrifice, persevering and trusting your mates cannot be replicated in a classroom.
Multiply that by 1,000+ and you have Clarke’s learning curve in one of the most responsible sporting positions in the country. Some would fade personally under that ‘burden’, with their personal form being adversely affected, along with strained relationships with teammates and the media.
Add to that a personal life that is skewed either to the obsessive end of the continuum with their sport, leaving little room for anything else, or a decadent lifestyle that takes ‘work hard, play hard’ to all-too familiar levels of decadence and we could characterise far too many of the sporting elite.
and maybe a legend …
The book of James opens by telling the reader to consider it ‘pure joy’ when you face trials and testing, as your true character rises to the fore. Sorry to go all biblical on you, but there’s a reason why my son’s middle name honours those five phenomenal chapters. Clarke’s star shines brighter than ever as he relishes leading our national team for a sporting public whose insatiable hunger for success could be overwhelming.
His personal life as is balanced as it has ever been, shunning the cameras and acclaim for a private wedding that stunned all but his closest friends. Captain Double Tons has been calm under pressure, seemingly oblivious to the criticism, and relaxed and demonstrating sound perspective when things have gone his and the team’s way.
What that says about his character places who he is or isn’t dating, what’s on his wrist, his tattoos, advertisements or body shape firmly into the stratosphere of ‘distinctly unimportant’; politically correct for ‘who really gives a toss?!’
The leadership hasn’t shunted his progress, it’s opened up the opportunity for him to become a legend. Leading a team through a sustained period of success while making this Bradmanesque amount of runs catapults him ahead of Border, Waugh, Ponting, Chappell and Harvey as our (second) best ever.
As for Sir Don, well, 99.96 is all you have to say.
Now, as for those who dare bring Tendulkar into the conversation…!