The new Clarke of the course of Australian cricket

by Andrew Gigacz

With Ricky Ponting absent, Michael Clarke became Australia’s 43rd Test captain yesterday. Clarke is one of those characters who tends attract the latterly popular term, “polarising”.

And in recent times, it seems that many more people have been gravitating to the negative pole than the positive. Perhaps this is the reason the world of Australian cricket appears to be so topsy-turvy at present.

Criticism based on Clarke’s recent form as warranted. And I suspect an analysis of the figures would support the claims of those who feel that Clarke tends to make most runs and look his best when the Australian team as a whole  is under not much pressure.

But it seems to be a human trait to pick on certain characteristics of another person if they decide they don’t like them. Clarke’s tattoos and earrings tend to cop a beating when things aren’t going well. But if he was turning out big scores in spades, these “criticisms” would subside soon enough.

It reminds me of a former colleague of mine. I didn’t like her. I don’t really know why. But the dislike became intense when she used to use the word “weary” in place of “wary”. It grated on me like not much else has. Then, not long after, I met another woman who I found particularly attractive and likeable. Not long into our friendship, I discovered she suffered from the same inability to distinguish between the words “weary” and “wary”. Strangely, it didn’t seem to bother me…

As Skull O’Keefe said of Pup’s tatts, “who cares?” Let’s judge the man on his cricket.

Hearteningly, prior to the match Shane Warne came out and full support of Clarke. Mind you, this probably wasn’t so surprising given that Clarke had come out before that and said he was going to model his captaincy on the style of Warne’s.

I hope he does. Ponting’s captaincy to me is uninspired, overly-defensive and reactive.

Having successfully completed his first aim as captain – winning the toss – Clarke chose to bat. On a humid, overcast Sydney day, there were those who doubted the merits of his decision. I thought it was a good positive choice, one which said, “this will be a tough job, but we’re up for it”.

The first session was a great exemplification of Test cricket. The English bowlers had Watson and Hughes under constant pressure. But both batsmen held firm and displayed a far more judicious approach than had previously been seen by the top order this summer. Mention was made amongst the commentators that the improved attitude might have been related to the fact that the Ashes have been lost and the burden of winning them back has been lifted. Hard to know in just one session.

Equally hard to suggest that the new captain had made the difference. But to throw a cat amongst the pigeons, I’d like to wonder out loud if it was indeed the absence of Ponting that lifted the metaphorical weight off the shoulders of the batsmen. Perhaps the fact that an out-of-form Ponting wasn’t waiting to come in eased the burden for Watson and Hughes. Perhaps just the fact that a beleaguered leader was absent from the group was enough to ease the pressure.

In any case, the two openers appeared more resolute than on previous occasions and almost lasted until lunch, at the stroke of which Hughes played a shot of which there was no need, and which he had avoided all morning.

After lunch, Watson played a similarly disappointing shot. In the mean time Usman Khawaja made a bright start to his Test career.

Clarke arrived, made a positive start but ultimately made only 4. Despite this disappointment, I wasn’t entirely unhappy with the manner of his dismissal. I thought he played the right shot. He simply failed to get over the top of it and/or pick the gap in the field. That’s cricket.

There wasn’t too much more after that. “Uzzie”, having looked relatively comfortable, fell to a disappointing sweep against Swann. Seconds later the rain came, and the day ended then and there, with Australia at 4/134.

Does it matter who wins this game? For the players, coaches and selectors of the Australian side, I certainly bloody hope so! The Ashes are gone, Australia is no longer a world power of cricket but we should always play to win!

We will learn a lot about Michael Clarke over the next four days, but, hopefully, none of it will have anything to do with his tatts. It should be about the man himself. I can’t recall too many judgements of Kevin “Bulldog” Murray’s 333 game career revolving around the “art” on his skin.

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?


  1. Gigs – I don’t have a problem with the wary and weary thing, mine is the lack of “is” in the English language of late, or the complete murdering of the word. Sometimes it annoys me more than others. For example, when a radio news reader proclaimed that “England are celebrating the Ashes retention” I wondered how many Englands there were. Then Mark Taylor said during the TV commentary yesterday, “There is heaps of times when batsmen…………..”.

    Drives me mad, just like our top order.

  2. John Butler says

    Gigs, many of the personal criticisms of Clarke seem no more firmly based than observations people make of celebrities based on trashy mags. Clarke admittedly has asked for some of this by playing the celebrity game. A lot of traditionalists (i.e. folks our age)don’t think this a good look for cricketers.

    On cricket terms however, he did himself no favours yesterday. The shot may or may not have been on, but it was a mistake he (and the team) couldn’t afford. He’s under a lot of pressure in the second dig now.

    Re Ponting, I think you’re onto something in one sense, but the reality is that Ponting’s hanging around the dressing room like Banquo’s ghost. Clarke says he wants this, but would you want the bloke you replaced in a job looking over your shoulder?

  3. Phil Dimitriadis says

    I don’t care about the tatts, the ads and the hype. If he makes runs that stuff fades into the background. He has not performed with the bat when his country needs him most.

  4. Andrew Starkie says

    Gigs, I once knew a woman who ‘seen’ instead of ‘saw’ a good movie on the weekend. Drove me nuts. Couldn’t handle it. When I started teaching ten years ago, I was introduced to the word ‘versing’, as in ‘Who are Carlton versing on the weekend?’ This word is in use in every school I have taught at. Dips, I interchange ‘is’ and ‘are’ incorrectly. Lazy, I know.

    Anyway, back to the cricket. Clarke’s shot was terrible. Wrong time, wrong execution. He needed to play a conservative role at that stage.

  5. Gigs,
    At the peak of his form, Michael Clarke is the first batsman picked in my Australian team. Plays spin well, excellent driver and cutter, can keep the scoreboard ticking over. But I am
    really concerned that there are currently some flaws in his batting which, now that they have existed for so long, will remain.
    I have no problem with him being appointed captain, especially given that he is the most qualified heir apparent. My worry is that, like a P Hughes who was selecetd while out-of-form, Clarke has had the burden of captaincy bestowed upon him while he is going through the batting horrors. I would not have thought there are many precedents.
    I hope he can find a way to get runs in the second dig, because his country will be depending on him.

  6. Andrew #4 – yes “versing” – I hear it everywhere. What are going on?

  7. Gigs
    She was probably a kiwi or from Adelaide! As for M Clarke….will sink or swim as player and/or captain but it wont EVER be his fault. He will get a plum job in the comm box at nine & live happily ever after

  8. I have already expressed the view that Michael Clarke is a goose, without properly explaining why. He has all the traits of gen Y that I find intollerable. He strikes me as a batsman who is likely to get runs when they are not needed. He has technical flaws which he has not addressed. I suspect the reason why is that he lacks the capacity for critical self appraisal. Gideon Haigh described Mitchell Johnson as an interesting psychiatric case study…it goes for all of them. As Rampaging Roy Slaven said of someone else “drop your trousers bend forward and look down and you will know you’re a joke”.

  9. In response to Dips #1 and Andrew #4:

    Just today I seen this guy who told me that Australia are versing England at the moment. I know he’s right but something about the way he said it makes me feel I should be weary of him…

  10. Andrew Starkie says

    I gotta go toilit

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