Michael Clarke’s decision to retire after his team’s disintegration in the fourth test against England let loose a wide diversity of opinions on the decision itself and the job he did as Captain.
Much of it was unfair.
That Michael has been nearing the end of his magnificent career was evident over the last few years. The extra time to play shots that always makes the very best look so effortless had deserted him. As, at some point, it deserts them all. Where once he might either have left balls or belted them through cover, he now edged to slip. A failure of technique or judgement? Both probably.
Instinct is born of subconscious decisions taken in nano seconds – a fraction out or indecisive and the artistry can disappear quickly. And the more it does, the more baffling for the artist.
They work hard to recover what is gone forever.
Clearly, Clarke’s race has been run. In fact, it has been for 18 months.
His time as captain has not been all smooth sailing and rumours persist of a divided camp under his stewardship. There is some truth to this but not all blame should be laid at his feet.
Selections have been occasionally inconsistent and, at times, just plain crazy. And then there was the period where Michael, as Captain, was also a selector – a move designed to create disharmony (and a role he was always against). More recently we saw the dropping of Brad Haddin for the third test after his daughter had again been taken to hospital. For a team that spoke a lot about “family” the timing was appalling. Selectors should’ve stuck with Haddin for the fourth test making it clear to Peter Neville that his time was close. The alternative was to be honest in the first place: Haddin was dropped for on-going poor form.
Coach Lehmann has somehow managed to escape scrutiny following England’s dominant victory.
The team looked chaotic and directionless and, despite protestations, be assured that the Captain and his Coach, have not been singing off the same song sheet for some time. Indeed, Clarke has (rightly or wrongly) harboured the view that his coach was undermining him. In a variety of ways.
The word “culture” has been bandied around but what is the Lehman culture and what was Clarke’s? They are very different and Michael has always rejected the idea that players had to spend all their time in each others pockets or to waste time on unnecessary drinking. Best to do the work and turn up and play professionally. His work ethic underlined the sincerity of this philosophy.
Incidentally, another great Australian Captain was criticised along similar lines.
His name was Don Bradman.
It has been profoundly disappointing to see John Buchanan and one-time teammates, Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds joining the bandwagon attacking Clarke. Andrew would perhaps do better to reflect on his own unfulfilled potential (and why it went unfulfilled) rather than attack one of the greats of the game.
Buchanan, a successful but not universally respected former coach, says Clarke diminished the culture of the “baggy green”, but it can be a mistake to judge others harshly simply because they don’t share your view.
Cultures in teams, businesses and nations are constantly evolving. The prevailing national culture, for instance, is vastly different now (and is in many ways better) to what it was years ago.
We will all have our own memories of Michael Clarke. For me it was the beauty of his batting; the optimism of his shot-making; his dignified, eloquent and brave handling of the many issues related to Phillip Hughes’ death.
They say he spent too much time with his wife. Now he has even more and I’m confident he won’t miss for long what he leaves behind.
Unlike some of those criticising him, he doesn’t live in the past.