Michael Clarke: Some cricketers are popular with the public, but a true measure of not just popularity but also respect is when fellow players and administrators of all sorts recognise the playing abilities of a player by giving him positions of trust and authority whilst he is still an active player.
That would certainly be an apt description if the player under examination happened to be Michael John “Pup” Clarke.
In his capacity as captain of the Australian cricket team from both Test and One Day International (ODI) cricket, he has the respect of his fellow cricketers for his superb play and the fine example he sets of how the etiquette and traditions of the game should be observed.
Michael John Clarke was born 2 April 1981 in Liverpool, New South Wales. He stands 1.78 metres tall. He is a right-handed batsman and his bowling style is slow left-arm orthodox spin. This may be considered something of an anomaly, because whilst there are more than a few right-handed bowlers who bat from the left side, there are far fewer left-hand dominant bowlers who bat from the right side, with the majority of left-hand bowlers batting from that same side.
Michael Clarke is not on the pitch for his bowling at any rate, even though he has made noteworthy contributions in this role, so it is his prowess as a batsman that will be our focus.
Michael Clarke made his first appearance of note in his home state of New South Wales as a youngster of 18 in the 1999-2000 Sheffield Shield. He was a contributor to the fact that NSW has the highest number of titles amongst the states.
He made his ODI debut in January of 2003 in a match against England that was contested in Adelaide. He was also the holder of the Australian Institute of Sport Australian Cricket Academy scholarship in 1999-2000.
2004 marked Michael Clarke’s first international Test. This was against India in October at Bangalore. At the time, his pick was something of a shocker, since he was carrying a first-class average below 40.
He justified his inclusion, however, scoring 151 and helping Australia to victory and invoking comparisons to Mark Waugh. Commentators would mention that whilst the innings were notable for its freedom and aggression, but still demonstrating the maturity that one would expect from a much more experienced batsman.
Clarke was instrumental in securing Australia’s 2-1 series victory, something that had not been accomplished against India for over three decades.
Returning home after that triumph, Michael Clarke posted a century against New Zealand in a Test match played in Brisbane. These two centuries, coming as they did in debuts, made him one of the few Test cricketers to be able to list that accomplishment of their resumes.
He was recognised for his 2004 performance by being the recipient of the Allan Border Medal, the most prestigious individual award in Australian cricket and all the more significant for being decided by players, the media and umpires.
As is often the case when an athlete gains recognition or is rewarded with a hefty salary, Michael Clarke suffered something of a bout of poor form in 2005. He went over a year without scoring another century, the result being that he was dropped from the Test team late in 2005. This was quite a blow for Michael Clarke.
Also common in the world of competitive sports is the player that uses such a humbling experience to re-dedicate themselves, and Clarke did that and then some in 2006. He proceeded to record his first first-class double century, along with making major contributions in ODIs. Michael Clarke was soon restored to the Test squad for a tour of South Africa.
The faith shown in him and his return to glory saw him being picked for the April 2006 Tests against Bangladesh. Michael Clarke further contributed by assisting Australia with two consecutive centuries, the result of which was to restore the Ashes to Australia.
2007 saw Clarke continuing his high level of productivity. He was a major factor in the 2007 Cricket World Cup, where the Test team did not lose a game to the West Indies. He also put up impressive statistics against the Netherlands and South Africa.
He continued his contributions to the Test team in 2008 and in one instance it was Clarke’s dismissal of Harbhajan Singh, RP Sing and Ishant Sharma in the second last over of the day to assist Australia to hold onto the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and keep a 16 match winning streak intact. The only Singh he did not dismiss was Vijay.
To be sure, not everyone is 100 percent pro-Michael Clarke 100 percent of the time. Some cricket cognoscenti hold him in contempt for his batting position of number five in Australia’s Test lineup, the criticism being that he uses more inexperienced batsman higher up in the batting order to shield him. Justifiable criticism, perhaps, but more appropriate if the results were not what they were.
With the exception of 2005, a low spot in his career, Michael Clarke made an impact so significant that he was named captain of Australia’s Twenty20 side in October of 2009 when Ricky Ponting put away the bat. He continued to amass impressive statistics, including a 228 in a partnership in 2012 with Ponting and a 334 with Michael Hussy. He followed that with a 229 in Adelaide.
Perhaps not quite as formidable a batsman as Ponting, Michael Clarke would have to be said to be the far better bowler. In a Test match against India in Mumbai in 2004, he put up figures of 6 for 9 and on one occasion, again against India in 2008, he dismissed three batsmen with five balls!
Michael John Clarke is 32 years of age at the moment and no one knows for certain how much time he has remaining. Nothing in the world of sport is a certainty and the margin betwixt business as usual and a life changing event is often nothing more than the blink of an eye.
Michael Clarke knows this as well as anyone and if there is anything in the world of sport that approaches certainty, it is that he will soldier on and contribute to his teams until such time as he feels that he is more of a liability than an asset.