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COVER STORY Michael Clarke

Ready,
or not?
Adam Burnett gets a dose of Pup culture as debate over Australia’s next captain hots up

> photography DIBYANGSHU SARKAR / GETTY IMAGES


P
ERHAPS THE tipping point a man for a crisis. Where others have stuttered a successful player; it’s been to do with a lot
was when Michael Clarke was and stumbled around him in the Test middle of the off-field stuff that he’s now taken a step
photographed at home, on his order, Clarke has stood tall. back from.
balcony, cleaning up his dog’s Yet he still hasn’t endeared himself to the “I think he’s certainly matured (laughs)
poo. Or maybe it was the stories public. The anti-Clarke sentiment continues to over the last couple of years, and he’s taking a
about an engagement ring, a simmer below the surface. Often it rises above different approach to a lot of things. I think he’s
fight, and a toilet . . . it. As with any sportsman, the 29-year-old is on a good track. He’s taken a few lessons on
The recent examples are many going to have his fans and his detractors, but the board, seen how different people have done it,
and glaring, but they all point to one thing: when latter are certainly more vocal than the former. thought about what’s good, what’s bad and what
Ricky Ponting decides to retire, Australia will have, To what can we attribute the unpopularity? he needs to do.”
for the first time, a Test captain who is also a Is Clarke another in a long list of famous Yet mud sticks. Clarke’s “off-field stuff”
full-blown celebrity. A man who – by his choice or Australians to have been scythed down by that has been two-fold, though they are inevitably
otherwise – frequents the newspapers’ front and fickle tormentor known as tall poppy syndrome? intertwined.
social pages as much as their sports sections. “I don’t think so,” says former Test paceman First, there’s the apparent enthusiasm to
While captains of the past have worn the and NSW captain Geoff Lawson. “I think people embrace that celebrity side of his life, and
well-trodden path of their predecessors, have seen all the off-field stuff and judged that the building of the celebrity image: the model
Clarke is starting afresh. Ricky Ponting might for what it has been. He hasn’t been criticised girlfriend, the endorsements, the ‘image’ tatts,
have been appointed leader in 2004, but the or tried to be dragged down because he’s been the appearances at trendy Sydney nightspots.
Tasmanian is forged from the century previous.
Clarke is new age.
“If you look at all the past captains – Mark
Taylor, Border, Waugh, Ponting – they’ve all
been scrappers and fighters, and not into
the celebrity side and the fashion side,” says
one international cricketer who has requested
anonymity. “It was cricket first, and they were
hard cricketers. They weren’t on red carpets in
their Gucci sunglasses. Is that a changing of the
guard? I don’t know.
“Personally, I don’t think it’s ideal; the most
successful Australian captains of all time have
been of a certain mould – why would you break
that mould? Is that something that Michael
Clarke needs to work on, or do we look for
another Australian captain who is going to fit the
successful mould? It’s something that the public
certainly thinks about, and most certainly [it is
considered] in state circles.”
Family man: Clarke savours his
Perception, though, can be flawed. Clarke’s debut Test ton in 2004 with
image may not scream hard as nails in the way his parents, grandparents and
of Waugh or Ponting, yet his record shows he is close mate Neil D’Costa

JANUARY 2011 InsideCricket 31


The path to Test captaincy, argues Lawson, Then there’s the counter argument.
and the qualities needed to be captain, is “Simon Katich doesn’t throw people up
changing. “We’ve got the cart before the horse,” against a wall by their throat unless they’ve
he says. “You don’t become captain, and then done something to really piss him off,” says our
try to earn people’s respect. It’s the other way international source, in reference to the Clarke-
around: you get to be captain because you are Katich incident at the SCG in January 2009.
respected. That doesn’t seem to be the way these “The guy’s the nicest individual you would ever
days, and maybe that’s where we’ve gone astray. meet. What I’m getting at is, there are obviously
“But Michael Clarke has come a long way. His guys who don’t respect him. Andrew Symonds is
tactical stuff is pretty good. another one.
“He shouldn’t be in the Twenty20 side, “Those sorts of things are cause for concern.
he keeps telling people that, but having said Word spreads through the cricket fraternity like
that, his captaincy has been excellent in the wildfire, and things like the Katich incident –
Twenty20. rumours and speculation about what actually Living in the
“I think generally, for the last couple of years happened – spread around the state scene and spotlight: Clarke
and his ex-fiancee
he’s been our most consistent Test player. He’s guys have been left to make their own opinions. Lara Bingle
played some fine innings under pressure. His And those rumours and opinions weren’t
Test cricket has been really, really high quality, favourable for Clarke.
and he’s had chances to captain in the shorter “In my experience, when he’s around, he’s
forms and done well.” great – he really does have a good sense of
D’Costa is in no doubt that Clarke has the humour, he asks a lot of questions about what
goods in terms of leadership – gleaned from a you’re doing – but it just doesn’t happen enough.
lifetime of experience. “Being a leader means If he’s going to be the next leader, you would like
you have to make decisions; some will be right, to see him taking more of an interest. Not just in
some will be wrong, some will be liked, and and around games; I mean it wouldn’t hurt him
some won’t,” he explains. to invite the new guys out for a feed or whatever.
“But the bottom line is, you are responsible He just doesn’t seem to go out of his way to make his tactics and he’s obviously learned a lot from
for making decisions. A lot of the people who people feel comfortable. But certainly when he’s Ponting and the leaders he’s played with –
throw eggs don’t have to make decisions. A around, at training or on game day, he really is a Warne, McGrath and these sort of blokes who
When I’ve been lot of people don’t like the tough decisions you
make. I think anyone who can’t be comfortable
pleasure to hang out with.
“As a leader, you’d like him to take on more
just had that natural leadership and knowledge
of the game. He couldn’t have learnt from a
out on the field with that, can’t be a leader, but Michael has of a role in making sure that the new guys are better group of blokes.”
with him, I think he’s always been a leader – he’s captained every
team he’s ever played in.”
comfortable and happy. But he does have my
respect. I think he’s quite knowledgeable with
Rumours that Clarke and Symonds are no
longer friends since the ‘gone fishing’ affair of
done an exceptional 2008, are jarring for the public. Maybe they

job. All that other them. Luc Longley, Tim Cahill or Harry Kewell be respected, but that’s what they do these
think he dudded a mate. To make matters
worse, Symonds, loose-lipped larrikin that he is,
stuff, I guess someone – they’re fine because they don’t live here, we
don’t see them poncing around with their flashy
days. It’s how your fellow team-mates see that
stuff, but seeing people on magazine covers
was on his way to achieving almost icon status
– Boonie-style – within Australia’s sporting
could hear something earrings and in their flashy cars. incessantly – now and then is fine . . . but the landscape. Clarke’s role in his punishment was
that gets blown out of “Now they’re in your backyard – they’re in the
building block next to you, they’re driving round
cult of celebrity has taken over the Australian
cricket captain and that hasn’t been the case
seen as him as choosing the establishment
ahead of his mate. Pros before bros, or
proportion” in an Aston Martin or Porsche and Australians up until and including Steve Waugh. I mean something like that.
look at that and go, ‘Far out, Dennis Lillee didn’t they were a cricket celebrity, but you certainly Realistically, the blame in the Symonds
MITCHELL JOHNSON do that, Thommo didn’t do that’. That negativity weren’t in the job to be a celebrity, and that has situation lies at the feet of the Queenslander.
around the team and the public not liking them certainly changed.” Clarke was in a position of authority and showed
“Let’s be honest – certain decisions you is because it’s the first time it’s ever happened. The second part of Clarke’s off-field life that maturity to discipline his colleague accordingly.
make, make your private life a lot more open “Michael’s trying to stay himself, he’s trying appears to have disenchanted the public has If anything, it was another example of Clarke’s
to people, and Mike has to live with that,” says to just be himself. But I think all of them get centred upon a couple of infamous fallings out leadership potential.
Neil D’Costa, Clarke’s close mate and former pushed and pulled. I work with a lot of players with team-mates, as well as rumours during the

I
manager. “He’s an extremely public person, he’s – Mitchell Starc for one. I have a lot of talks to ODI series against Sri Lanka in November that T CAN be easy to forget that fame rankles
highly sought by sponsors, he obviously had a him, I tell him: ‘Mate you have to know how he did not have the respect of all his peers. with Clarke, too. Cynics will say he invites it:
girlfriend who had a public image herself, so you to play this now. It’s not easy. You’ve got three Paceman Mitchell Johnson insists this is not that sportsmen who date models, endorse a
have to expect that [public scrutiny]. games going – the game on the field, the game the case. “The times I’ve been there under his multitude of products, and happily Tweet their
“To be fair, he’s probably the first of the of life, and then you’ve got the game of what you captaincy in the Twenty20s and one-day stuff, I days away, are clamouring for attention. Like
new generation of cricketer who made a lot of choose to let people see of you’.” don’t see any of that [disrespect],” he says. “In America’s worst reality ‘stars’, they’re addicted
money from day one. There was a lot of money Lawson feels that Clarke’s image, while not the dressing rooms everything’s always pretty to fame. In short, they’re begging for it. But
coming into the game as Michael Clarke rose to necessarily appealing to the senior cricketing calm and relaxed. where do you draw the line?
fame. So he was the first guy people saw driving fraternity, is simply part of the package of today’s “Personally, when I’ve been out on the field “When I chat with Mike, he always laughs and
around in a flashy BMW. international cricketer. He also suggests that that with him, I think he’s done an exceptional job. says, ‘Jeez, my life – I could never imagined it
“And our country is very much struggling to new wave in fact started with Ponting’s captaincy. All that other stuff, I guess someone could hear was going to be like this’,” D’Costa continues.
deal with mega-rich sportsmen because we’ve “We’re in the 21st century,” he says. something that gets blown out of proportion or “I think at different times he thinks there’s a
never had it. We’ve had Greg Norman. We’ve “[Embracing the celebrity life] isn’t something whatever it is, but in the team I know that we’re lot of stuff written that’s unfair, and maybe
had overseas-based guys but we didn’t know players of my era would see as something to happy with how things are.” unnecessary. But I guess anyone who didn’t

32 InsideCricket JANUARY 2011 JANUARY 2011 InsideCricket 33


Michael Clarke is the best man for the
job regardless of what sort of profile
he’s got, but he needs to do the hard yards.
Having a high-profile captain is fine; the
important thing is getting the job done”
IAN HEALY

when I’m not. I’m not ringing people saying, time he’s gone out to play, he’s done everything
‘Come out the front of my house and take to make sure we win. We lived in the same
a photograph of me on my balcony’. No one house and before we left in the morning, I’d
invites that into their lives. have to go coach at a lower-grade game, and
“And some of the off-field stuff that gets I’d say ‘Make sure we win’, and he’d say, ‘Mate,
written is extremely laughable. Ask anyone who we’ll win, don’t worry about that. Even if I have
actually knows Michael and they’ll tell you he’s to get the runs myself’.
a hilarious, very well-mannered guy. People say: “The guy loves batting, he loves fielding, he
‘Yeah but he wouldn’t go down the pub and have just loves cricket. And he loves winning and
10 beers and a punt on the races with you’. But being part of the reason why the team won.”
he wouldn’t do that when he was 18. That was Final word goes to Test legend Ian Healy, a
him. Me and his dad used to make fun of him – former Test vice-captain himself, who brings to
‘Come and have a beer with us mate!’ And he’d light another problem that Clarke and selectors
go ‘Nah, beer gets you fat’. And mate that’s fine; will have to consider before his appointment.
are you not allowed to be who you are? “Michael Clarke is the best man for the job
“Some people are going to make choices regardless of what sort of profile he’s got, but
in life that other people won’t like. And I think he needs to do the hard yards,” Healy says.
that’s where Michael Clarke is at as a person. “Having a high-profile captain is fine; the
He’s lived his life in the limelight since he was important thing is him getting the job done.
23, he’s had a lot of expectation placed on “But my greatest concern about Clarkey is
him. I can vouch for the one fact that, from a his back. It’s a serious problem that he’s got,
coaching point of view, he puts his absolute best and he has to stay on the field if he wants to
foot forward for every match he plays. That’s be captain. You can’t be missing games or
not in question. Because deep down, the guy’s having ups and downs with injury and be the
passion is scoring runs and winning. captain. Our history of captaincy is unreal for
think that in his position wouldn’t be human. “When he was a kid, he used to call for a not missing games. That’s the concern – that
“There are days he gets frustrated with it. run and when he realised the other guy wasn’t he won’t get the opportunity [to captain]
When you’re in the middle of a Test match, going to make it, he used to run back as well, because he’s not on the field.”
you don’t want to pick up the paper and read so no one would get out. He won a national Michael Clarke has played 64 Tests,
something about your girlfriend. No one does. championship for NSW Under 19s batting with been dropped once, and missed a solitary
I know he’s frustrated because he feels at times the tail with massive dehydration – he came out match for family reasons. Never has he been
that people think he’s forcing the focus on of hospital to play. They’re the stories people absent through injury. If he is to become
himself when he’s not. He’s going: ‘People don’t know. He comes down to Wests training Australia’s first true celebrity skipper, that
think that I’m making out that it’s all about me, and just acts like one of the guys – and every trend will need to continue.

Covering himself in glory


How and when Michael Clarke has featured on the front of Inside Cricket
DECEMBER 2004 MARCH 2005 MARCH 2006 OCTOBER 2006 DECEMBER 2007 DECEMBER 2009
Debuts with a ton and Wins AB Medal in first Axed,but Ian Chappell Wins back his spot in Establishes himself as Looms as Australia’s
the Clarke craze starts. year in the Test team. wants him back. time for the Ashes. a quality senior player. next Test captain.

34 InsideCricket JANUARY 2011