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After Michael Clarke’s revelation yesterday that he has contacted Cricket Australia with an offer to make a comeback to captain the Australian cricket team in its darkest moment, my first thought was, ‘Which presentation night was he at when he thought this was a good idea?’
Every April I attend the Kiama Cricket Club presentation night, to see the season awards handed out and catch up with friends I spent my playing days on the cricket field with, with varied success.
And every season over several beers, I announce that I am going to make a comeback next season, to help lead the club to success (that ironically, I didn’t experience too often when I was playing). This is greeted with kind words, but behind the eyes I see they understand the truth is that, even if I did wake up the following morning not regretting my bravado, my advancing years and lack of meaningful practice means it would all be a furphy…
It is sometimes easy to forget how good Clarke was as an international batsman, and how astute his captaincy could be.
He scored 8643 runs in Test cricket at 49.10, and only fell below the elite average of 50 in his final series, against England in 2015, where he scored 132 runs at 16.50.
In 2012 he scored a triple century against India (329 not out in Sydney) and three further double centuries, at a time he appeared impossible to dismiss.
Even though he was not a ‘slogger’ in one day cricket, at a time the game plan appeared to be calling for them, he found his spot in the middle order and made it his own.
He fought constant back and hamstring injuries. He played a few of the most inspiring innings in recent times. His second innings century in Brisbane against England in 2013 – when he had been bounced out in the first innings – was all class. When Morne Morkel smashed him the same way in Cape Town six months later, his 161 not out was one of the highest bravery.
His century against India on one leg in Adelaide, in what proved to be his final Test in Australia, was one for the ages.
Prior to his captaincy career, Clarke had some issues. The Lara Bingle relationship brought forward moments he would have preferred not to deal with publicly. The dressing room fracas with Simon Katich he would have preferred to have kept out of the media.
Once installed as skipper, the homework saga in India in 2013 brought him unwanted pressure. He was openly ambitious from a young age and sometimes that may have got in the way.
But his final 12 months in cricket saw his leadership shine – on and off the field.
The tragic loss of Phillip Hughes brought Clarke to the fore, as he took the responsibility of not only helping the Hughes family through the situation, but also lead Australian cricket through it as well. His injury in the first Test against India looked as though it would end his career, but his single-minded effort to not only get himself fit for the 2015 World Cup, but to then lead Australia to the title and top score in the final was an amazing effort.
All of this just reinforces the view that Clarke was one of our best batsmen since the turn of the century, and a skilful and knowledgeable captain. His figures from the 2015 series against England reveal that he was waning then, and that when he announced his retirement it was the right time to go.
There is no shortage of ego, and no doubt he honestly believes that he could get himself back to his best, despite being out of the game for three years.
On Friday night I will be attending this season’s Kiama Cricket Club presentation night, and I fully expect to once again start the process of making my comeback next season at the youthful age of 48, in order to restore the club’s on-field playing fortunes to its glory days.
Despite Clarke’s heartfelt desire to come to the aid of Australian cricket, I expect that his offers for a return to the baggy green will be met with as much belief in its validity as my own exhortations.