What on earth was Quinton de Kock doing?
The vultures are circling in another case of deja vu for the Australian captain. From Mark Taylor to Steve Waugh to Ricky Ponting, all who preceded Michael Clarke had runs of poor form which saw the pressure piled on their already weighty position. Now it’s the incumbent’s turn.
Taylor and Waugh gave us some of the most memorable turnarounds in living memory.
Taylor’s position was under scrutiny for some time prior to becoming just the fourth Australian to post a triple century in his 98th Test match. Declaring on 334* after batting for more than 12 hours in significant heat, ‘Tubby’ showed the grit and determination expected of Australian captains to etch a score alongside the best we saw from batting god Sir Donald Bradman.
Australia didn’t win the Test, but the selflessness of the captain to declare and give Australia a chance was what we’ve come to expect from our skipper. Tubby went on to play a total of 104 Test matches with an average of 43.49.
The innings was not as big, nor the result any different, for Steve Waugh when he strode out to bat at the SCG on January 3 2003, with Australia in big trouble.
The occasion and the pressure on ‘Tugga’ was intense, with seemingly everyone with a pen declaring the SCG Test would be his last. Well didn’t the fans come out to make sure he was going to be supported if it was.
A packed SCG got to see Waugh stride out in exactly the situation he made his own over a glittering Test career. Peeling off a four on the last ball of the day to seal his ton and send the still-packed crowed into raptures stands as my greatest sporting memory.
Ricky Ponting didn’t emulate his two predecessors, preferring to stand down as captain and bat at four before retiring with the current captain already the incumbent when he pulled stumps on a career that was regarded as the best since Bradman.
Now we’ve come full circle and find Clarke in the same position as Tubby and Tugga. Except the two former players looked like a big score was just around the corner before their epic knocks; Clarke is not in that position.
But the one thing Clarke has that can be compared to Taylor and Waugh is his fighting qualities. When Clarke took over the captaincy the team was a mess, so he took his game to a new level, becoming a shining light in a team that couldn’t spell consistency. Four double/triple tons in 2012 highlighted a purple patch, with the top being his 329* before also declaring selflessly in the best interests of the team.
By the tone of some pundits, Clarke’s amazing ton with broken bones in South Africa and the fighting ton against India with injuries that required surgery and months of rehab to recover from happened a decade ago. Are we forgetting the World Cup final also, or does that not count because he was wearing pyjamas? Let’s forget it was against the form bowling attack of the World Cup also.
Michael Clarke may not be everyone’s cup of tea, nor the most orthodox captain – although that has resulted in wickets that wouldn’t have come under the majority of captains worldwide or in history. But he has every quality required of the hardest leadership job in the country.
More so, he has every bit the attitude, class and gumption to put egg right all over the faces of the vultures that are currently circling.
So go on, get the knives out. Start squabbling over which shield player is going to replace him. 113 Tests at just under 50 with 28 tons and 27 fifties making up 8605 Test runs are going see him off as a great of the game even if he does fail next up.
But my money is on Clarke turning it around, with the next Australian Ashes to be his swansong.