This could have been the moment when Australia finally took to cricket captain Michael Clarke. It seems fitting that it happened in his hometown of Sydney.
To be captain of Australia is no small thing, indeed it’s one of the highest profile positions in the country. Tradition and expectations weigh heavily.
In cricket, the captain is a hugely important role, much more than football. He decides the tactics, the strategy, who bowls when and where and pretty much every decision that is made. In five days of play in test matches there are a lot calls to be made, and it’s the captain who needs to get them right.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
It’s not a job for the faint-hearted. And Clarke is certainly not that. Perhaps it’s one reason why, when he was appointed in March to succeed long-serving skipper Ricky Ponting, the reaction was muted.
Compared to the feisty and hugely talented Ponting, Clarke is a different breed of cricket player. He even seemed to prefer going out with his girlfriend than celebrating a win with his teammates, not something greeted warmly in the macho world of Australian sporting culture. His relationship with some teammates was also said not to be warm.
“I don’t believe I can get the whole of the country to like me,” said Clarke at the time, “hopefully I can earn the respect of the doubters by playing cricket the right way.”
At the end of the day, that’s what it is all about. If Clarke can deliver results while playing well himself then he’s eventually going to win the public round.
And that was the problem. He has taken over a team that is a shadow of its former self. For most of the ’90s and the following decade, the Aussies were the team to beat. It may not have been easy to lead a great team to victory, but it always looked easy.
As 2012 started however, Clarke has delivered the perfect triple combo. He has delivered a comprehensive test win against India, the second successive victory against the team ranked second in the world, played fantastically well with the bat and then showed that he was true captain material.
India, as Sanjay noted, struggled to a disappointing score of 191 in the first innings but had started to attack Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground and had the hosts reeling at 37 runs for the loss of three wickets. Then Ponting and Clarke came together. Ponting posted 134 runs, another century in a glittering career, and then in came Michael Hussey, who helped himself to 154.
The captain progressed to 329 – an amazing innings and the highest ever in Sydney. He was within sight of Brian Lara’s 400, the highest in history.
With Australia completely on top and never likely to lose the game, few would have complained if Clarke had set his stall out to break one of sport’s most prestigious records. Yet, with Australia at 651-4, he decided to end the innings early.
The reason was to give Australia more time to bowl out the Indian side and claim the win. And that is exactly what happened.
It was a selfless act and could be the turning point in Australia’s relationship with Michael Clarke.