For the past 11 years, I’ve always associated Australian cricket with one name. Michael Clarke. It was almost a constant. Yes, pup had his own share of controversies, but he wasn’t exactly controversy’s child as some scribes would write.
Though I hadn’t gone to Chinnaswamy Stadium to witness the debut of a new Aussie batsman back in 2004, in hindsight I feel I should have been there. Simply because I was in Bangalore and I had missed the debut of one of the greatest batsmen to have played the game.
I was following the Australian tour of India 2004 and that 151 on debut set the tone for the match and the entire series which Australia won with a 2-1 scoreline. What stood out in that innings was Clarke’s play against the spinners. Especially the way he would dance down the track and give all of them a whack. All the greatest of the batsmen, Brian Lara, Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis, Insaman-Ul-Haq were all light on their feet and did their stuff with minimal yet calculated movements of the feet. But Clarke was something else altogether. Even when he wasn’t looking good to score, he would always look pretty on his feet. Perhaps they never gave the ballerina in him a real chance!
Pup has had his issues with captains and players alike. The PPT-gate where Shane Watson left midway through India tour of Australia is a case in point. At the end of the legendary Ponting’s career and captaincy, he too had had his issues with Clarke. And this is all common fodder for the media.
All I have to say is he is one of the biggest readers of the game and a good thinker. I have no doubt that he was the most aggressive captain Australia has ever produced. And aggression isn’t something new in the Australian way of playing cricket or any other sport.
Clarke’s batting has always oozed class. I don’t know whether he belonged to the Mark Waugh/VVS Laxman school of lazy elegance or the Rahul Dravid school of technical correctness. I am assuming he was the right mix of both. And yes, he was gritty. He has this beguiling boyish good looks that almost made you think that he wasn’t the hard-boiled Aussie that we have all been accustomed to. But he was. He would slug it out with the best of the bowlers. He would get angry at the umpires. He would set fields nobody would have imagined at that stage in the game. Most importantly, he would try to win matches. I am sure he was somebody who would never settle for a draw. Because a draw is a compromise. Even in cricket parlance!
I am sure Clarke is going to have as colorful a life as he has led while playing cricket post retirement. The men-in-white cricket has truly lost one of its superstars to chronic physical and fitness issues and age.
Why do I even watch test cricket nowadays anyway…! I need to ponder this while watching the proceedings of the ongoing India Vs Sri Lanka Test at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo!