Poor Michael Clarke. You captain your side to a spectacular and emphatic test victory in the opening Ashes test; putting an end to a winless run of nine tests; seven of those being defeats. You do it in a vital test, against the odds, and you even chipped in with a vital century yourself.
Instead, the post-match focus has been on his sledging of James Anderson. “Face up then. Get ready for a broken fucken arm. Face up”
Sledging in cricket is nothing new; there are plenty of not very good books on the subject. Most of it is nothing too intellectually taxing, and typically revolves around sleeping with the opposition’s wife.
Threatening physical harm is not as common, but neither is it unprecedented. The great West Indian team of the late 70s and 80s was built around an intimidating bowling attack, backed up by words to that effect.
Well maybe, just maybe, all this uproar is because it is Michael Clarke.
There is something about the man that opens himself up for disdain, even from Australians. The fancy lifestyle, disastrous girlfriend choices, and the smug grin have always counted against him.But there is more than that. Even within the team he has a reputation of not really being part of the culture. From the altercation with Simon Katich when he would not stay around through to the stand-off with Shane Watson it is obvious he has always been considered hard work. But it doesn’t end there either.
The Carpe Diem tattoo on the arm. Seriously.
The reputation for claiming catches that have clearly bounced first; most notably in that fiery series at home against India in 2008.
That voice. If, say, Michael Holding had said “Get ready for a broken fucken arm” it would sound right; almost cool. Delivered with Clarke’s squeaky voice it just comes across as risible..
By threatening an injury on an opponent, a number 11 batsman in fact, via a team-mate it doesn’t come across as an act of bullish bravado. And to do it only when the match is sewn up has a hint of cowardice about it.
It really came across as the rich brat who had hired a few heavies to do his dirty work. Sometimes people’s preconceptions and prejudices cloud judgement. And for Michael Clarke that will always be the reality of it.
UPDATE: 10 Aug 15
Even heading towards retirement Clarke would show a conspicuously ego-centric view of the world. He announced his ODI retirement on the eve of the Cricket World Cup final. The build-up to the biggest event on ICC’s books became about Michael Clarke.
Not content with that, the timing of his announcement of retirement from test cricket was even more jaw-dropping. Minutes after England had retained the Ashes there he was again; talking about … Michael Clarke. Whether he had previously informed the team who he was captaining is unclear, and would not appear to be a priority in his thinking.
All of this came in the months following that thing that has been uncomfortable to mention. How he seemed to take a lot of the limelight following the tragic passing of Phil Hughes. The bit about being custodians of the sport, as the behaviour of the team he led fell further into the gutter.
So farewell then Michael Clarke. We assume we will continue to hear from you.