What. A. Ball.
Michael Clarke has failed his first test as leader before a ball has even been bowled in a test match. When Ponting retired earlier in the year, I like many others, thought that Simon Katich – despite his advanced years – was the right man to lead Australia out of its current malaise.
He has a Border like quality (a man who turned a rabble into a fine Ashes winning side) and is made of the right stuff for test cricket.
His fate has been somewhat different. Despite having the best batting record of any Australian batsman over the last three years and the respect of his peers and the cricketing public – his contract with Cricket Australia was torn up this week.
This is a fate somewhat more grave than being dropped from the team because there is no way back – not at his age.
Katich is an old school cricketer, the very antithesis of Michael Clarke. Herein lies the problem, and the answer, to why Katich’s Cricket Australia contract was not renewed.
Regime change is rarely bloodless. While Clarke is not primarily responsible for choosing contracted players he would have input, and his finger prints are all over this crime scene.
Among cricket circles it is widely know that Katich and Clarke do not like each other. In fact that is putting it lightly.
The relationship has been frosty ever since the famous incident at the SCG following the final test of the 2009/2010 series against Pakistan.
The team were fresh from a massive come from behind test win against Pakistan (as we now know Pakistan may also have been celebrating that night!) and it was the last test of the summer.
Both of these factors meant that a sacrosanct team ritual would be performed that night. As is tradition, the team would wait for the stadium to empty (while emptying a few cans themselves) and the sun to set over the grand old ladies’ stand before venturing out into the middle once more where they would sing the team song “Under the Southern Cross”.
Clarke the inked up, waxed down, sensitive new age guy wanted to make a quick exit to see Lara Bingle while Katich the hairy, crotchety old man would have none of it. Legend has it, team mates had to pull him off Clarke.
Not liking each other does not mean you cannot work together effectively for the greater good of the team. S
imon and Garfunkel sold out stadiums while not talking for years. Kevin Rudd is performing his duties as foreign minister with gusto while openly referring to the lodge as Bogan-ville.
And even in test cricket – Wasim and Waqar and (S) Waugh and Warne were far from mates in very successful teams.
The point is Katich is the best man to open the batting for Australia and Clarkey should have been a big enough man to bury the hatchet.
Katich is not the first man to feel the knife after falling out with the captain – Dean Jones, Michael Slater and Stuart MacGill would have all played many more tests if they had not rubbed their captains up the wrong way.
The difference is all of these guys had attitude problems which impacted their relationship with the team at large.
Katich is a team man and popular amongst his peers. When you think about the incident after the Sydney test, Katich was standing up for team over self.
Clarke on the other hand has put his own feelings above the interests of the team. In doing so he has weakened the top of our order at a time when it was the only solid foundation on which to build the new era.