Classy Clarke shows he’s got guts
The Facebook group ‘I Hate Michael Clarke’ has been very quiet lately. Its most recent post, by someone called Jatz Jaxon, was from January 10 this year.
"It’s your fans that pay your salary you overpriced *******!!” it read, not untypically. Since then, though, nothing.
But since then, of course, Clarke-haters haven’t had much to write about. Even those who hate him as much as Jatz Jaxon. I’ve always found it tough to understand, the vitriol which Australian fans direct at Clarke.
Having asked many Aussies and trawled some of the blog sites, you come across the same answers - the celebrity girlfriends, the tattoos, the victory song row with Simon Katich (Clarke once asked if this treasured tradition might be brought forward so he could go out for dinner with his then-WAG Lara Bingle).
But having read the charge sheet, I’m not convinced Clarke’s perceived crimes are worthy of the abuse. Particularly as their smooth-skinned captain seems much more representative of today’s metrosexual Australian menfolk than the ‘taches-and-tinnies’ tribe of days gone by.
Doubtless, there have been incidents Clarke regrets (apologising for not walking against England in the Ashes was never going to win many Ozpoints, for example). Like anyone who bursts onto the stage at 22, there are things he could have handled better.
But since his promotion to the captaincy, you have to conclude that Clarke has been virtually faultless. As skipper, Clarke averages 61. Against India he made 329 not out and 210 and became the No.1 ranked Test batsmen in the world, but not all the runs he scored as captain have been so easy. Clarke made a second-innings hundred in Colombo to set up a series win in Sri Lanka, made the only ton in the match as Australia beat New Zealand in Brisbane, and hit 151 out of his side’s 284 in that astonishing Test at Cape Town where the tourists lost after being bowled out for 47.
Nothing he’s done with the bat though, can eclipse Clarke’s achievements as captain, and last week in Barbados was his finest achievement in the role.
Midway through the fourth day, with Australia still 43 runs short of West Indies’ first innings total, Clarke declared. It was a move of stunning audacity - walking the tightrope between braveness and stupidity. Even Clarke’s team-mates were stunned by the move, but the genius was in its execution. Because Clarke, with his irresistible spirit, made them believe that mission impossible could be accomplished. He made them “find a way”.
“I know it’s tough, I know we’re tired, I know there’s going to be issues of the foot marks, I know it’s going to be a tough run chase, but find a way,” Clarke told his team. “Everyone and individually as a team we’ve got to find a way and we’ll win this Test match.” In the fading light of Bridgetown Clarke channelled the spirit of Adelaide, the spirit of Shane Warne, into this green Australian team.
Unlike Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who infamously chose not to go for victory in the West Indies the last time India toured the islands, Clarke demonstrated that some Test matches cannot be won without first risking defeat.
In his short time as Punter’s replacement, Clarke’s already shown he is more of a gambler than Ricky Ponting ever was, and his team are the more dangerous for it.
Even Jatz Jaxon can see that.