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Clarke didn’t rub the ball with sandpaper. But he’s played his part in a win-at-all-costs culture

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29th November, 2018
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And so our Michael Clarke’s fired off at the hip at something that’s upset him.

He’s taken Gerard Whateley to task, and defended his part in forming Australia’s cricket culture by saying he took the team from No.5 to No.1 in the world, and that if Gerard had a problem with it he didn’t say so then.

Clarke further declared that to insinuate he had anything to do with the ball-tampering affair was ridiculous. He further had it that Australia played “hard but fair” – and no worse, anyway, than anyone else.

Yet Australian cricket is in a period of deep introspection. It took a cataclysm, but Australia’s international cricketers are finally around to the fact that the Australian national team isn’t liked that much, at home and abroad.

Particularly abroad – most Australian fans wouldn’t understand how much the Australian team is disliked. The Australian players are generally liked individually. The team is seen as boorish, overbearing, over-aggressive dickheads.

Clarke reckons the team shouldn’t worry about being liked. But rather worry about being respected. And just win. And win. And win.

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But they have won, a lot, over the years. And been less-and-less admired.

Overseas, Australian cricketers have always been respected … as cricketers. But as blokes? As sportsmen? Yeah, not so much.

And that, as Simon Katich implied, is where Clarke rather misses the point.

“What’s been forgotten is we blatantly cheated,” said Katich on SEN. “The point is, we were caught for blatantly cheating and we have to rectify that as soon as possible to earn back the respect of the cricketing public in Australia and worldwide.

“We’ve been a disliked team for a number of years through that on-field behaviour and it obviously came to a head in Cape Town.”

Said Whateley: “Clarke’s interpretation of the predicament the Australian men’s Test team finds itself in is breathtaking. That he would continue to rely on the line – the fiction his and subsequent teams used to excuse all manner of boorish behaviour – might be the single greatest piece of nonsense over the past nine months.

“Australia didn’t know what or where the line was. That’s how it ended up with sandpaper on the field.”

Cameron Bancroft

Cameron Bancroft of Australia talks to the umpire before the incident which rocket Australian cricket. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)

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Clarke wasn’t going to cop blame for ball-tampering.

“For Gerard Whateley — to insinuate that I am responsible for the ball tampering issues makes him nothing more than a headline chasing coward,” wrote Clarke.

“Perhaps if he was talented enough or courageous enough to make it onto a cricket pitch he would have a better perspective than from behind a microphone.

“Finally Mr Wheatley, if you think that the current No. 1 team in the world of cricket right now puts being liked as of higher importance than being respected and playing to win inside the rules of our game than you’re as delirious as you are ill informed.”

Probable he meant delusional. And there’s a hyphen after ill. And he’s listed a bunch of assertions as “facts”.

And calling the bloke a coward because he wasn’t good at batting, well … Michael Clarke should get his hand off it.

My cricket career never got further than fourth grade in Canberra. But you can still have an opinion. And mine is this: why you can’t play ‘hard’ cricket without carrying on like a tool?

This faux-tough, ‘Aussie way’ of cricket where we sledge blokes and get chippy – and then can’t cop it back or take some form of responsibility when a South African or West Indian gets personal in return – seems immature.

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Live by sword, all that. And when you’ve danced so long along the line, you shouldn’t be surprised you get something nasty back.

The culture review identified a team that didn’t get that. That lived in a bubble of their own importance.

Mind you all the sledging stuff, it’s overblown a bit anyway. You can have a word with the opposition. If you’re putting them off, that’s the idea of it.

It’s international cricket. It’s meant to be difficult – emotionally as much as physically. If saying something to a batter at the non-striker’s end takes his mind off batting and he gets out, job done.

But there’s a way to do it without being a wanker.

For a start try this: don’t be a wanker!

With Australian cricket in such a tizz, Michael Clarke alluding back to some over-aggressive “Australian way” that’s “in our blood” … it’s not helpful. The Australian team is seen as bullying dickheads. Perception is reality.

Michael Clarke batting in the baggy green

Australian captain Michael Clarke batting in the baggy green. (Photo by Steve Christo/Corbis via Getty Images)

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Nup – can’t go with Michael Clarke on this one. One hundred per cent support his right to reply.

And I agree with him that “you can blame culture, you can blame chairman of the board, you can blame the CEO, at the end of the day, three people made a decision that they have to live with for the rest of their life.”

I don’t think Clarke or the board or Boof Lehmann were responsible for the sandpaper thing. That’s a long bow, for mine.

But all these people were responsible for “culture”. And for Clarke to surmise that he had nothing to do with a culture so hell-bent on winning that it would countenance cheating, well, he did captain the bloody team. He’s had an effect.

He didn’t rub the ball with sandpaper. But nor did he clamp down on the greater barking bullshit that’s made the Australian team so disliked, in Australia as much anywhere.

Indeed he encouraged it. Because that’s how we won, according to Michael Clarke.

For mine, I’m liking Australia under Tim Paine more than I liked Australia under Michael Clarke.

Paine will attack and play “aggressive” cricket. He’ll say something to the opposition if they say something to him. And apparently he’s quite quick with it, and smart.

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But there seems a streak of sportsmanship in the bloke. Perception and reality there too. Actions matter. The pre-series hand-shaking thing. That’s a sign of respect.

You want Australia to have that, Australia has to give it, too.