“We need to play tough Australian cricket because whether we like it or not, it’s in our blood.”
“If you try and walk away from it, we might be the most liked team in the world, we’re not going to win ****. We won’t win a game. Boys and girls want to win.”
Strong words from the Test captain who handed the reins of the Australian cricket team to Steve Smith.
Gerard Whateley was one of many in the media and broader society that passed comment on Clarke’s comments. In a now widely-publicised prepared radio piece, Whateley condemned Clarke and what he perceived as his role in perpetuating and celebrating a team culture that culminated in the self-indulgent events of Cape Town.
“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,” said Whateley on SEN.
“Australia didn’t know what or where the line was. That’s how it ended up with sandpaper on the field.”
Clarke’s decision to drag the tête-à-tête to a new sordid Twitter low only amplified the former Australian captain’s stunning lack of self-awareness of the new path that Australian cricket must now stoically tread.
The back and forth – akin to adversarial four-year-olds meeting in middle of contested sandpit territory – must have been to the utmost delight of SEN head honchos who snatched Whateley from ABC Grandstand earlier this year.
Rather than responding to the issue at hand, Clarke cheapened his argument and played the man in a fashion reminiscent of the infamous Douglas Jardine. “ATTN: Gerald Wheatley” it initially bleats.
Clarke’s – what can only be deliberate – misspelling of Whateley’s name belies a trivial immaturity bereft of the leadership and emotional wisdom he showed during the heartbreaking Phillip Hughes tragedy.
Quipping that Whateley’s own cricketing prowess denies him the right to criticise those who play the game, Clarke neglects to remember his own inexperience in the commentary box and his glaring lack of journalistic ability.
What is more, he derided Whateley as a “headline chasing coward” – such is the gall of a man who famously threatened Jimmy Anderson (author’s note: a fantastic, yet personally disliked cricketer), a lower order batsman facing Mitchell Johnson in his bloodthirsty prime, with “a broken ****ing arm”.
I don’t care who you are, if that is the supposed “tough Australian cricket”, then I don’t want any such part in it.
This lack of self-reflection was more self-evident when Clarke then declared that the Australian cricket should prioritising winning and being respected over being liked.
As Tim Paine has already declared, there has been no mention of the new XI being friendly or striving to be liked. But what Pup fails to recall, and to borrow the words of his seemingly ongoing NSW adversary Simon Katich, “we were caught blatantly cheating” in Cape Town.
Winning had become a disease within the dressing room to the extent that sandpapering the leather cricket ball was deemed both acceptable and legitimate in the pursuit of victory.
Principles of sportsmanship, general morality and good natured humanity were reduced to the tearful afterthoughts of men seduced by a team culture of winning at all costs.
Clarke’s thoughts on the matter hold significance in the fact that he remains a former Test skipper, yet, by attacking Whateley, he retains little of influence which that title bestows upon him.
Perhaps now the Cricket Australia and Channel Nine bubble of former cricketers and now media personalities and administrators is bursting, Clarke is merely trying to assert himself in the new media landscape.
But for all his ruffling of plumage he has reminded Justin Langer and Tim Paine just how far Australian cricket’s long walk to freedom has to go.
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