Michael Clarke as an individual is much maligned in the community. Be it his young go get ’em attitude, his playboy lifestyle off the field or a lul in form as it seems most Aussie cricketers experience, he certainly has had his fair share of difficulties earning the respect of the Australian public.
The problem he faces is that the position of Australian Cricket Captain is held in a higher esteem than the office of Prime Minister, and while Ricky Ponting was a good captain, you have to go back to Steve Waugh, Mark Taylor and Allan Border to really reflect on a truly respected Aussie Captain.
Playing in the same side as the deposed captain (Ponting) must be tough for Clarke, I bet at some times he wishes he wasn’t there. However at other times I’m sure he draws on the vast experience that Ponting can bring him on and off the field.
It’s also hard to doubt that since his break-up with Lara Bingle he seems to have re-focussed himself on the game, the sport which he is paid so well to play.
So, what does a young man like Clarke need to do to earn the respect of the public? Get Married? Settle down? Hand the captaincy over to someone else?
No. All he needed to do was show some maturity beyond his years, and that is precisely what he did today at the SCG.
By declaring the Australian Innings while he was on 329 runs (the 14th highest Test cricket score ever), he chose to not score a simple extra 5 runs to equal the great Don Bradman’s innings against England at Leeds in 1930. A record that itself was matched by then Aussie captain Mark Taylor in 1998 against Pakistan. In Taylors case, he chose to declare also, leaving the Don’s record in tact as the highest Australian run scorer in Test Cricket (Since beaten by Matthew Hayden in a giggle test against Zimbabwe in Perth in 2003).
Clarke could have returned from the drinks break and batted for a while longer and jumped into the top 10 of all time – heck, he could have stayed out and scored 400 with Hussey getting to 200 perhaps.
But we will never know. Instead, as the Umpires called drinks on the afternoon of Day 3 of the SCG Test, Michael Clarke called the Aussie innings quits and sent the Indians back in for a monumental run chase.
I think he did more for his personal image and career in that one moment than he could have ever done by surpassing Brian Lara as the highest run scorer in test cricket with 400+ runs.
Congratulations Michael Clarke, you’ve earned the respect of Australian sports fans, and you should wear that Baggy Green with more pride than ever before.