Watson and Clarke’s ‘Provan Summons’ moment

Andrew Shephard Roar Rookie

By Andrew Shephard, Andrew Shephard is a Roar Rookie

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    Australia's Ashes winning side from 2013. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

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    Seen that photo of Shane Watson and Michael Clarke arm-in-arm? No it’s not a joke. There really is one – taken after the team’s historic 3-0 Ashes win at the WACA.

    For me, it’s the most telling shot of the series, if you’ll forgive the pun.

    The smaller man has his arm around the bigger man, and looks up at him with an expression of respect. The bigger man seems to receive the gesture with affection, and manages to look down while maintaining respect in equal measure.

    It’s a description that might just as readily remind you of that iconic Australian sporting photograph – ‘The Gladiators’ with Norm Provan and Arthur Summons.

    That photo hangs in the national portrait gallery – such is its meaning to the country.

    The image of the two opposing captains after the 1963 rugby league grand final has also been immortalised in bronze, as the trophy received by the NRL premiers.

    Men all over Australia – no matter how tough – will readily tell you that that image touches them in a way very few things do.

    For it goes beyond sport. In fact it reaches beyond even the slings and arrows of our own outrageous fortunes. As sport is every now and then capable of doing, it talks to a greater truth. That what unites us is greater than what divides us.

    The two figures in The Gladiators are almost caricatured opposites.

    And yet, they stand together in harmony – having given their all, and the mutual respect that battle will create among survivors. It matters less in the final wash-up which side you were on, simply that you were there.

    Those same feelings surge their way under one’s breastbone with the Watson and Clarke shot.

    For while they have long been on the same side, they have been at odds their whole career. And with their long history of antipathy, it’s often seemed that there was more that divided them than the baggy green that united them.

    They appear men cut from very different cloths. Watson looks a lad who’s had most things come to him, and can’t quite fathom it when they don’t.

    Clarke appears the opposite, expecting nothing – not even for people to like him – but ready to work harder than anyone to reach his clearly defined goals. One a freakish talent, the other freakishly devoted.

    They were never likely to get along.

    The pointed difference in temperaments was highlighted by the ‘Homeworkgate’ affair – Clarke being among those who sat in judgement of Watson not handing in a paper on team improvement by the allotted hour, and deeming him unfit to take the field next match.

    It was stated publicly as a reinforcement of standards, a drawing of a line in the sand. And that seems a particularly ‘Clarke’ thing to do – expecting 100% commitment and effort – above and beyond whatever value you already have for the team.

    Clarke’s position on teamwork is almost military: You owe it to everyone to be trying your absolute best, and giving the team objectives all of your focus.

    Just ask Andrew Symonds – it was Clarke’s similar take on his missing a team meeting for a fishing trip that saw him dropped, and choose to no longer continue his previously close friendship with the upstart Pup.

    It would be understandable if a laconic Queenslander like Watson (and Symonds for that matter) saw Clarke as a bit of a stiff.

    A party pooper. A teacher’s pet.

    And I imagine it was something along the lines of wanting to highlight this to the rest of the team that created the open hostility between the pair that led to Homeworkgate, and Clarke’s branding of Watson as a ‘cancer’ within the team.

    The pair’s differences were indeed so well documented that only weeks ago it would have been hard to imagine this embrace ever taking place – even in victory.

    And so this image, so perfectly captured by Phil Hillyard for News Limited, captures something significant about the change in mood in the Australian dressing room.

    The body language suggests a considerable rapprochement between two old foes. Nothing like a three-nil sweep in the Ashes to build a few bridges, of course, but I think there’s more to it than that. I think the two men have genuinely made a step towards the other.

    The first thing that’s clear is that Watson has realised who’s boss, and decided to pull his head in and push his oar out.

    The language coming from him all series has been that of a man toeing the party line. He’s suddenly an all-rounder again, knows he needs to score big first-innings hundreds, and is full of praise for his skipper. A team man at last!

    And as much as Watson has tightened up his act, Clarke has clearly loosened up a bit.

    One of the most interesting subtleties of the photo is Captain Clarke not only wearing a baseball cap (rather than the baggy green or wide-brimmer), but wearing it backwards!

    He seems to be saying, I can be one of the lads too. There’s a time for Captain Perfectionist, and there’s a time for letting the hair down.

    Both men appear to have grown considerably.

    It’s one of sports great delights that it throws up magical moments with quite some frequency – and sometimes, those quintessential half-seconds are captured by the camera shutter.

    Very occasionally, those magical moments don’t even happen inside the period of play, but in its receding glow.

    There is Provan and Summons of course, so many years ago.

    There is Cathy Freeman sitting on the track after winning the 400m final at the Sydney Olympics, being comforted by a vanquished opponent.

    And in terms of cricket, we need only think back to 2005, with Andrew Flintoff commiserating a crestfallen Brett Lee, who’d fallen just two runs short of an unlikely victory.

    What makes these iconic images so special is that they capture rivalry being overcome by humanity, enmity losing out to empathy, and difference giving way to unity.

    And while both Watson and Clarke have long been playing in the same uniform, to see them at last become teammates is perhaps just as poignant. Just as powerful. And just as meaningful for the future of Australian cricket.

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • Roar Guru

      December 25th 2013 @ 5:02am
      ak said | December 25th 2013 @ 5:02am | ! Report

      So true. They look a happy unit. And to all Roarers wish you a Merry Christmas !!!

    • December 25th 2013 @ 7:10am
      Dexter The Hamster said | December 25th 2013 @ 7:10am | ! Report

      I have to say, I think you are reading too much into the whole thing. Not everyone is going to be best mates, but they can still get along within a team situation. Think that has always been the way with those two. I suspect its still the same, regardless of which way Clarke wears his baseball cap.

      • December 25th 2013 @ 11:06am
        BargeArse said | December 25th 2013 @ 11:06am | ! Report

        I agree … i think there has been less actual antipathy between them than is suggested by external commentators (it does help when your team is winning handsomely). I was very interested to see when i went to some of the tour games prior to the Ashes in England, when things were meant to be most tense, that there was continual conversation and much smiling between the two in the slips cordon. It is still a good photo.

      • December 25th 2013 @ 11:06am
        BargeArse said | December 25th 2013 @ 11:06am | ! Report

      • December 25th 2013 @ 12:34pm
        Brian said | December 25th 2013 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

        Yeah, I agree Dexter. Just look at Shane Warne/Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne/Steve Waugh. Warnie off the field never got along with both of them yet on the field, you could hardly tell there was a rift between the two. Now I’m not saying that Clarke and Watson off the field don’t get along, I actually think they do cause over the last 8 years (since Watson made his test debut), there has been no article of a genuine rift and the “cancer” claim from Mickey Arthur I reckon is totally bull****.

    • December 25th 2013 @ 8:25am
      Buk said | December 25th 2013 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      Possibly, but it could equally be read as a begruding gesture. The relationship, under pressure, could blow apart again. The real test is how they work with one another under adversity, when a test or series is lost, and Clarke’s captaincy is called into question.

    • December 25th 2013 @ 11:19am
      jack thomas said | December 25th 2013 @ 11:19am | ! Report

      THIS IS MY ARTICLE OF RELATED STORY. NOT A COMMENT. the 1st part addresses watson. watson, i was a huge fan of u until i realised u r not man enough to fight clarke’s tactics on u. nobody understands whats under the surface. evrybody reads only the surface. the ugly truth is clarke wants u(watson) out of the team like symmonds n katich. i’ve known this even long before the homework gate. ur natural style of batting is aggressive. but under clarke, u r not able to do that. he tells u to play defensive rather than being agressive becos ur wicket is valuable. he says that becos he wants u to fail. any batsmen who plays in any other way other than his natural style can never succeed. u r listening to him n u r failing to score. well listening to him n not scoring doesnt make u a “team-man”. what makes u a “team-man” is not listening to him n scoring for ur team. in 3rd test match u got lucky cos the match situation gave licence to play ur natural game. but u’ve to play ur natural game in any situation. but clarke wont let u. ur bat is the only thing that can talk. nobody cares what u say in pre n post match conferences. what u’ve to do is,,”be a man, n tell clarke, look i cant score if i play defensive or cautious cricket, i can only score if i play like i play naturally which is dominate”. watson, u’ll never fail if u be urself n have belief in ur urself. u might fail in 1 or 2 matches. but on the whole, u’ll be very sucessful if u play like u love to play. ur job is to score…period..ur job is not agreeing with clarke at whatever crap he throws at u. the world is never perfect watson. u’ve to fight for what u want. u’ve numerous fans in subcontinent especially india, only because u dominated every match in ipl n in world t20 2012. only ur bat can win ur home crowd. i hope this msg reaches u.
      well, when it comes to clarke, i dont even consider him as leader. he’s a baby villain. every aus captain brought the best out of his team-mates. under clarke, its opposite. on paper, aus can easily beat india n eng earlier this year. but they lost miserably due to the torturous atmosphere created by clarke. i’ve known this long before hussey revealed how the dressing room atmosphere is. well now they won ashes. its due to johnson n its on home soil n boof brought some relief from torturous atmosphere. if steve waugh is the captain of this team, they would have won easily in ind n eng. under clarke, the team didnt shine. only players under his faction had relief. waughs team played against some dominant teams like SA(gibbs,kristen,kallis, klusener, cronje,rhodes, donald, pollack, etc) n won many times. if he captained the present team, he would easily win a test in 3 days against this weak eng team in any part of the world. not just on home soil. what u r seeing on surface is clarkes hugging watson. but under surface, its a diff story. there’s so many calls in recent times from former cricketers that clarkes team management isnt good n his captaincy is in danger. bailey is in line for captaincy(although i would love for watson to be captain). so, clarke changes his behaviour trying to look good with everyone. he has a loyal sucker shane warne. few days before, warne said “Mark Taylor and Allan Border were the two best captains that I played with but Michael Clarke will join them in the pantheon if Australia are successful for the next two years”. this is a joke n a tactic which audience cant understand. since clarke’s captaincy is in doubts, he wants audience to believe clarke is the best so that he continues as a captain for next 2 years. well as a batsman, watson is not only miles ahead than clarke, he’s the best in the business when he plays with a free mind. clarke cant play a ball which has swing n pace at the same time with a new ball. so, clarke cant bat as opener or at no.3. hence, he hides down the order. even against a spinner, he jumps in his crease like a duck. he only plays by disturbing bowlers line by coming out of crease constantly. i’ve nothing against clarke. my only concern is watson is not fighting hard for what he wants.

      • December 25th 2013 @ 5:49pm
        Bayman said | December 25th 2013 @ 5:49pm | ! Report


        It might work better if you lose the tendency to speak in abbreviated twitter/SMS terms and actually spell the words properly, use capital letters where appropriate and commas, apostrophes, paragraphs etc. All those little things which make the text easier to read.

        • December 25th 2013 @ 6:32pm
          Mango Jack said | December 25th 2013 @ 6:32pm | ! Report

          I agree, Bayman. JT, you may have some valid points in that ocean of letters, but I can’t stay with it beyond the first line. I might be a bit old school, but punctuation was invented for a reason. It makes your text readable.

          • December 25th 2013 @ 6:59pm
            jack thomas said | December 25th 2013 @ 6:59pm | ! Report

            Ya, l should’ve chose to write in a conventional way.

      • December 25th 2013 @ 8:51pm
        Blaze said | December 25th 2013 @ 8:51pm | ! Report

        Meh, more dribble… Nothing to back up claims as usual.

    • December 26th 2013 @ 6:09am
      kombiutedriver said | December 26th 2013 @ 6:09am | ! Report

      Why didn’t the article show the actual photograph rather than the one of Haddin and Clarke?

      • December 26th 2013 @ 10:19am
        Dexter The Hamster said | December 26th 2013 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        Photo also shows Dave Warner giving someone a send off. Really is a tool that guy. Will someone please have a word with him….

        • December 26th 2013 @ 8:17pm
          Blaze said | December 26th 2013 @ 8:17pm | ! Report

          Gez celebrating a wicket is an offence these days now… Give it a rest a rest champ

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