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Clarke’s Rollercoaster

It is my aim to write a tribute when a great player retires, especially Australians. This I have done for the past 13 years and Michael Clarke is the first great to retire whose career started after the dongles blog started. I don’t necessarily say that puts Clarke ahead in my loyalties above other greats such as Border, Waugh, Ponting, Taylor and Gilchrist. I don’t love cricket more because I write about it but writing does give one a reason to pause and reflect and since 2004, I have written a great deal about Michael Clarke. So, in some ways, I do feel a little closer to the life and times of Michael Clarke.

The intention of writing such posts is to provide a tribute to a great career, to celebrate the achievements of that player. This is not a difficult task where Michael Clarke is concerned for there are many. However, I do find myself a little perplexed. With Clarke, there is more than meets the eye and now is a good opportunity to explore some of the twists and turns of his career, especially as captain.

In the aftermath of Australia’s highly unsuccessful Ashes campaign and Michael Clarke’s abrupt retirement, there was some talk questioning Clarke’s claims to greatness. I don’t quite understand that. He played 115 matches, 47 of them as captain, his team winning more than 50% those matches. He holds numerous records not to mention countless moments of brilliance with the bat and even some with the ball. It is true that controversy and incident has followed Clarke’s captaincy and consistency often did not. Perhaps that diminishes his greatness but I simply can’t see how he could be excluded from the hallways of the Australia Test cricketing elite.

Clarke first broke into the Test team as a raw and unaffected 23 year old. He had instant success with 151 on debut in India in October 2004. That was a match that Australia won and they ultimately won the series – the first series win in India for about four decades. In the final Test of that series, Clarke bowled a stunning spell, taking 6-9 which was at the time the 3rd best six wicket figures ever. Australia ended up losing by a narrow margin but the series was won and Clarke had shown right from the start that he was a prodigious talent and more – he had the golden touch.

I remember Clarke as an exuberant youngster with hair foils and an earring. I recently saw a clip from the early days and realised I had forgotten how big that diamond stud became at one stage. I remember him frequently gathering the ball at cover point and hurling the ball to the bowler with that bullet like left handed throw. I remember him getting more than the occasional glare for such acts from Warne and McGrath. Such was Pup.

Clarke’s first Test in Australia six weeks after his debut produced more magic. He made a scintillating 141 as he and Gilchrist dismantled New Zealand. However, after that wonderful start, Clarke struggled in 2005. All of the Australian batsmen, Clarke no exception, succumbed to reverse swing in the famous 2005 Ashes series. He averaged just 28 from 12 matches in 2005 and was dropped towards the end of the year, for the first and only time in his career.

He was back not too far into 2006 and enjoyed the most consistent period of his career. In the four years from 2006 to 2009 Clarke scored 2,854 runs at an average of 57 with 13 fifties and 10 centuries. Clarke had cemented his place in the team and was obviously a world class batsman destined for great things. And of course, he was the heir apparent. It was during this time that Clarke put in his other stunning bowling performance. With the match headed for a draw at the SCG, and Australia straining for an unlikely win, Clarke took the final three Indian wickets in the penultimate over of the day.

During this time he also picked up a certain super model girlfriend who many thought was not a good influence on young Michael. He was exhibiting Gen Y, A-List behaviour. Clarke showered Bingle with jewellery and Aston Martins. He may even have been putting his girlfriend before the team. There seemed to be some tension in the team. Ponting was in decline as was the team. Things spilled out of the dressing room and into the news when Simon Katich tried to throttle Pup in early 2009 (see http://dongles.org/Interpreting-the-brawl/  for details). Dongles suggested at this time that perhaps Clarke was not quite ready to take the reins. This view was backed up by none other than Ricky Ponting in his 2013 book.

The year 2010 was a turning point for Clarke. After a great start to 2010 (two 160s in the first quarter), his performance rapidly declined and turmoil in his private life may well have contributed. He averaged just 36.7 for the year. In mid-2010 he parted company with Lara Bingle and many Australians said, “Thank goodness for that”. I came across an article where Lara Bingle claims that she dumped Clarke and it was the best thing she ever did! No joke. (http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/lara-bingle-the-best-thing-i-ever-did-was-leave-michael-clarke/story-e6frfmq9-1226743038540 ). You can find plenty of accounts that would not agree with Bingle’s version but one thing is sure: even if it was Bingle that did the dumping, most people would agree it was the best thing she ever did but probably for different reasons than hers. Things started looking up for Michael Clarke.

Despite a lean year, Clarke took over the captaincy at the very beginning of 2011. In fact, it was anything but an ideal handover. He replaced the injured Ponting for the fifth Test of what was a disastrous home Ashes series for Australia. Ponting himself averaged a miserable 16 for his four Tests and Clarke didn’t fare much better with 21.44. Australia lost the match and the series margin was 3-1.

Since Clarke became captain, there have been 14 centuries and just 7 fifties. While you might say that is a great conversion rate, and it is at face value, it did represent a feast or famine characteristic which was reflected in the results of the team. From another perspective it could be argued that Clarke was not reaching 50 often enough. Those 21 times past 50 came from 46 matches. That is a fifty rate of 45%. The great batsmen have a half century success rate of around 60% of matches (as did Clarke pre-2010).

During Clarke’s captaincy (2011 – 2015), he made his five highest Test scores including all of his doubles and the triple. In addition, he made played several innings innings of epic proportions. And all the while Clarke and the team were up and down like a yo-yo. In reality, aside from 2012, the rest of Clarke’s batting career that was plagued by inconsistency as were team and match and series results. Clarke’s average as captain was 51.92 but if you take out 2012, his average is 38.54. in those years (2011 & 2013 – 2015), he scored nine centuries and just four fifties. It is all quite strange.

Clarke’s captaincy started well. The team won 1-0 in Sri Lanka with Clarke himself scoring two centuries (and the other four innings all under 20). There followed two frenetic series, both of two Tests, both drawn 1-1.

The 1st Test in Cape   Town in November 2011 saw Clarke score an magnificent 151 in the very first innings of the series. It was incredible because the total was just 284 and only one other of the top seven made double figures (Shaun Marsh – 44). The innings was made at a strike rate of 85.79 and included 22 boundaries. It was an innings of skill and authority against a fantastic attack on a sporting pitch. I would rate it his best innings. It was just what Clarke needed in his captaincy. It said, “I am Border. I am Waugh. I am Ponting. I am the man. I am worthy.” The enormity of his innings was even more apparent as Watson and Harris ran through South Africa for just 96 with none of the last nine making double figures. Then followed famine. More correctly, a nuclear disaster. Australia recovered from 9-21 to post a pathetic 47 and South Africa easily made the 236 required for victory. Then almost as inexplicably, without much help from Clarke, Australia chased  more than 310 to win the 2nd Test and draw the series. It was manic and came to typify the rollercoaster ride under Clarke. I am hard pressed to be sure if this was due to Clarke’s leadership or personality but it was such a constant I have to wonder.

The swings within a match, within a series and from series to series left one’s head spinning. Winning one Test one only to lost the next – often convincingly on both sides of the ledger. The clean sweep wins at home and equally heavy losses away were hard to reconcile.

The team returned from South Africa with more positives than anything. They had drawn an away series against the best team in the world and really, should have won. New Zealand was to be the entrée before the main event against India. Once again Clarke made a century in the 1st Test and Australia won easily. However, the team lost the next Test despite seeming to have the run chase under control and despite David Warner carrying the bat. Clarke scored a duck, Australia lost by 7 runs and another series was drawn.

Then suddenly, everything clicked against India for the 2011-12 summer. Craig McDermott turned the pace bowling attack into a force to be reckoned with. Ponting returned to form and piled on the runs just one last time and Clarke started his ascension into the clouds.  He compiled one of the greatest innings ever at the SCG with 329 not out and followed two matches later with 210. Australia swept the series 4-0. This started a sequence of seven Test series where Australia either won or lost to nil. In fact, that was the case for 10 of the next 11 series. Famine or feast. And in the rare series where both teams won at least won match (South Africa 2-1 and England 2-3) every single match was a trashing. Thrash or be thrashed. If the Tubby Taylor era was characterised by losing dead rubbers, Michael Clarke’s was typified by highs and lows.

Clarke ended the year 2012 somewhere in the clouds having scored 259 not out and 230 in consecutive innings against South Africa. Scoring almost 500 undefeated runs against the best attack in the world was not a bad effort. Clarke’s stocks could rise no higher and I feel that in some ways, Clarke’s unassailable position at the top of the pile caused some problems a couple of years later. But who could have seen that?

From 2013 onwards, Clarke was dogged by one thing or another. It should not be forgotten that his back troubled him greatly for many years and later, his hamstrings. Captains have enough on their plates without having to battle chronic injury. The year 2013 saw utter turmoil in the Australian team both on and off the field. They lost away series to India (4-0) and England (3-0) without winning a single Test match. During this time there was the homework saga in India, very public allegations of trouble between Watson (the vice captain) and Clarke, David Warner running off the rails and brawling with Joe Root (and being sent into exile for the start of The Ashes) and the controversial sacking of Mickey Arthur who was replaced by Darren Lehmann. It is little wonder that the team could not take a trick during this period of time. Clarke was not consistent during this time but he did continue to score impressive centuries. The most notable was a wonderful 187 in the 3rd Test against England. Australia was 2-0 down in the series and on the brink. That innings was a great captain’s knock and but for rain probably would have got Australia back in the series. I don’t know how much Clarke can be judged by these results but I think he must take some responsibility.

I think that it is well accepted that Clarke has a good cricket brain. His on-field tactics are creative and he has a popular, positive approach to winning matches (e.g. surprise declarations, inspired bowling changes and fielding positions). However, being captain is far more than leading from the front with the bat and being adept tactically. It is about leadership. A good captain has the respect and trust of his team. He has the ability to unify and get the best from them. Whatever else was going on at the time, and it has to be said that Clarke must have been part of the trouble anyway, the Australian team was not performing to their full potential. Far from it.

But suddenly, just as in the summer of 2011-12, it appeared that someone flicked a switch and there was a complete transformation. Australia had an utterly stunning turnaround in the 2013-14 summer and reclaimed the Ashes 5-0. I don’t know how much credit Clarke can take for this turnaround.  Clarke certainly helped lay the foundation with centuries in the first two Tests but the series was won on the backs of a rampant and resurgent Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Brad Haddin.

The team then went to South Africa and won 2-1 to cap a wonderful summer and put Australia on top of the world. Clarke himself played an innings of great importance that won him great respect. It added to the legend. After a lean first two Tests and with the series locked at 1-1, Clarke scored a wonderful 161. This was a very different innings to the 151 he made over two years before. Clarke struggled. He was peppered by Steyn, Philander and Morkel but he showed tremendous grit as he made key partnerships with Warner (135) and Smith (84). And it was later found that he batted for most of the innings with a broken shoulder! If the Australian captain was effort questioned for his guts, this dispelled all such doubts. The innings said, “I am Waugh. I am Boon. I am Slasher Mackay. I am made of the right stuff.” And who could argue? That was March 2014.

Australia did not play Test cricket for another six months. The next series was against Pakistan in UAE, October 2014 . That was lost 2-0 but I would suggest, is largely forgotten. With the arrival of India for the summer of 2014-15 there were a number of events that shaped the rest of Clarke’s captaincy and had immense impact on Australian cricket. Firstly, Clarke was struggling with fitness, specifically his hamstrings. There was an unresolved dispute between him and the authorities over his path to selection (i.e. proving his fitness). This remained unresolved due to the most significant event – the tragic death of Phillip Hughes. Obviously, that affected all of Australian cricket and even world cricket but especially the Australian cricket team, and even more especially, Michael Clarke. It came to be known how close Clarke and Hughes were. Clarke called Hughes his ‘little brother’. Clarke was the face of Australian grief and he showed great depth of character, humanity and maturity has he fronted the press and also spoke at Hughes’ funeral. It should be noted that this was not even a year ago, that Clarke wore a black armband for Hughes for the rest of his playing days (right up until last week) and I have to wonder how much this affected him. I would not be surprised when Clarke’s book is released that grief over Hughes is still having a significant effect on Clarke. I make absolutely no criticism of that. I make the point because I think that while it is relatively easy for the general public to ‘move on’, it should not be forgotten that it would be natural for those who knew Phillip Hughes and were close to him to still be affected.

As it turned out, Clarke was declared fit for the rescheduled 1st Test against India. I believe that he would have been declared fit if he had just one leg. Clarke needed to play for the sake of the team and his own sake. Under the circumstances, I don’t think anyone could have opposed the decision. It almost seemed inevitable that Clarke would produce a great innings and he did. Considering the emotion and focus – and the tension that existed before Hughes’ death, Clarke produced a masterpiece. It was ‘only’ 128 but it was more than enough for the occasion. Clarke’s hamstring did not last the match out and he was sidelined for the rest of the series.

That circumstance leads into another consideration: enter Steve Smith. Not only did Steve Smith take the reins and lead the team capably to a series victory but he stepped up to be Australia’s next superstar. He scored a century in every Test match. Can you believe that? Not only did this allay any concerns about how he might handle the captaincy in the long term, it promoted him to the main man. It said, “I am here. I am Clarke. I am Ponting. I am a force to be reckoned with. I am the man”. While none of this was designed to undermine Clarke, it must have in some ways. It certainly would have eaten at Clarke that there was a greater batsman in the team now, especially as the situation continued in the West Indies and England. And it must have fuelled any self-doubt, knowing that there was someone worthy waiting to take over. There was talk in the media at the end of the India series that there was no real need for Clarke to return – that some of the players themselves wanted to move forward with Smith. I never fully trust the media but usually there is some element of truth.

Which finally brought us to the final curtain – the 2015 Ashes. To put into perspective how long it is since Australia have won an Ashes series in England, consider that Michael Clarke never had that winning experience. Not as captain. Not ever. The series played out disastrously and in the end, nobody (Australians) seemed to know who to blame. A wide net was cast which included Pat Howard, Darren Lehmann, CA in general, almost all of the batsmen, most of the bowlers and of course, the captain. I was surprised at how many ‘Clarke haters’ came out and I think it was unjustified. Clarke should and did, take significant responsibility. He fell on his sword and also denounced his performance. I don’t know if even he can assess how his state of mind had affected his ability to lead well. However, I don’t think it would be fair for a great player’s reputation and standing to be soured by singling him out because there is widespread disappointment over the result.

Clarke’s achievements as a batsman stand up to scrutiny. As a youngster, he scored heavily and consistently. His style was always popular. He was light on his feet, played all around the wicket and scored freely. After he became captain, it has to be said that his results were not as consistent as they should have been. That being said, he posted many monumental innings. I have listed eight in this post. In 2012 he scored four double centuries in a calendar year – the only player ever to do this. And not just doubles – huge innings including a triple– 1028 runs in just four innings for twice out. The others I listed that were truly great innings were 151 and 167 against South Africa, 187 against England and the 128 versus India. Those innings alone, especially given the circumstances of each, stamp greatness on Clarke.

As a captain and leader, I find Clarke hard to assess. I have made the point that results were very mixed and his tenure was marked by sudden fluctuations in fortune. It should also be noted that Clarke’s away results were poor – four of the five series losses were away. This does tie in with Clarke’s batting results: he averaged 62 at home and 41 away from home. But assessing a leader goes way beyond statistics. I think Clarke always addressed the press well. He was open and candid and never short as the likes of Border and Ponting on occasions. In fact, his openness at times made me feel uncomfortable. He was always prepared to accepted personal criticism and take responsibility in public. However, my instinct made me wonder if he was at times duplicitous. Did he always walk the talk? When HomeworkGate took place, I found Clarke’s position interesting. Firstly, let me say, that HomeworkGate was a significant and very nasty incident in Australian cricket. Ultimately, it cost Mickey Arthur his job and I was glad. But at the time Clarke fully supported the action. That action included axing and publicly humiliating the vice-captain (Watson). That didn’t stack up for me. I could not see how a captain could support that under any but the most extreme circumstances. Further, there was rumoured to be a riff between Watson and Clarke which Clarke flatly denied. Much of what took place supported the rumours as did a document released by Mickey Arthur after he was dumped (in that document, Clarke described Watson as “cancer”). That is why I have my doubts.

On the other side, Clarke was admirable during the aftermath of Phillip Hughes death. He showed all the right qualities. And as a captain he had strengths. Firstly, his batting did step up. Consistency aside, he compiled innings of immense substance, much more so than prior to 2011. He showed courage, application and great skill in doing that. His on field captaincy was often brave and inspiring. I have focused on Test cricket here as that is what matters to me but Clarke was a great limited overs cricketer: a versatile batsman, effective bowler and great fielder anywhere on the ground. He led his side to a World Cup victory and that all counts to the good when assessing Clarke. Clarke was a complex character and nobody is perfect – he certainly had some flaws and weaknesses. Whatever the mark required is to be counted as great, Clarke gets a pass from me.

Statistics

I did more analysis of statistics than I have ever done in the past and have to say it did help me unravel some of the mysteries of Michael Clarke. I have shared some of them. All raw data came from HowzStat (http://www.cricket-stats.net/) and dongles and Excel added some magic.

Michael Clarke Test Batting Summary

Mat Inn no Runs Avg

50

100

HS

Total

115

198

22

8643

49.1

27

28

329*

Home

53

86

11

4654

62.05

13

17

329*

Away

58

104

11

3793

40.78

13

11

187

Neutral

4

8

0

196

24.5

1

0

77

As   Captain

47

86

10

3946

51.92

7

14

329*

Last 10   Matches

10

18

2

403

25.18

0

1

128

Michael Clarke batting record by year

Note that as luck would have it, Clarke was captain for every match he played in from 2011 onwards and none before that.

YEAR Matches Inn Not   Out Runs Avg

50

100

HS

2004

8

13

1

596

49.66

2

2

151

2005

12

18

1

476

28.00

2

0

91

2006

6

9

3

429

71.50

1

2

135*

2007

4

5

1

320

80.00

2

1

145*

2008

13

23

2

1063

50.61

5

4

118

2009

13

23

4

1042

54.84

5

3

138

2010

12

21

0

771

36.71

3

2

168

2011

9

16

0

618

38.62

1

3

151

2012

11

18

3

1595

106.33

3

5

329*

2013

13

26

3

1093

47.52

3

4

187

2014

7

14

2

429

35.75

0

2

161*

2015

7

12

2

211

21.10

0

0

47

Total

115

198

22

8643

49.10

27

28

329*

Michael Clarke Captaincy Test Series results

Note that the Border Gavaskar Trophy (2014-15) and The Ashes (2010-11) have been excluded from series stats as Clarke captained for only one Test in each of those series.

Summary

Venue Win Draw Loss Total
Home

3

1

1

5

Away

4

1

4

9

7

2

5

14

List

Series   Name Opposition Location Season Series   Winner Result
Warne-Muralitharan   Trophy (Australia in Sri Lanka) Sri   Lanka Away

2011

Australia 1-0 (3)
Australia   in South Africa Test Series South   Africa Away 2011/12 drawn 1-1 (2)
Trans-Tasman   Trophy (New Zealand in Australia) New   Zealand Home 2011/12 drawn 1-1 (2)
Border-Gavaskar   Trophy (India in Australia) India Home 2011/12 Australia 4-0 (4)
The   Frank Worrell Trophy (Australia in West Indies) West   Indies Away 2011/12 Australia 2-0 (3)
South   Africa in Australia Test Series South   Africa Home 2012/13 South   Africa 1-0 (3)
Warne-Muralitharan   Trophy (Sri Lanka in Australia) Sri   Lanka Home 2012/13 Australia 3-0 (3)
Border-Gavaskar   Trophy (Australia in India) India Away 2012/13 India 4-0 (4)
The   Ashes (Australia in England) England Away

2013

England 3-0 (5)
The   Ashes (England in Australia) England Home 2013/14 Australia 5-0 (5)
Australia   in South Africa Test Series South   Africa Away 2013/14 Australia 2-1 (3)
Pakistan   v Australia Test Series (in United Arab Emirates) Pakistan Away 2014/15 Pakistan 2-0 (2)
The   Frank Worrell Trophy (Australia in West Indies) West   Indies Away

2015

Australia 2-0 (2)
The   Ashes (Australia in England) England Away

2015

England 3-2 (5)

Michael Clarke Test match captaincy summary

Opposition Win Draw Loss
Away

10

5

13

England

2

2

6

India

3

Pakistan

2

South   Africa

3

2

Sri   Lanka

1

2

West   Indies

4

1

Home

14

2

3

England

5

1

India

5

New   Zealand

1

1

South   Africa

2

1

Sri   Lanka

3

Grand   Total

24

7

16

 

Clarke 251 not out

Clarke 251 not out

Clarke and team Ashes 2014

Clarke goes over the top and inside out - four

Clarke goes over the top and inside out – four

 

Clarke goes over the top - six

Clarke goes over the top – six

 

Captain Clarke and Australia’s Cricket Crisis

While Michael Clarke’s retirement announcement at Trent Bridge was a little sudden, it didn’t really send shockwaves through the cricket world. Nobody was really that surprised were they?

It is my practice to post a tribute to the greats when they retire. This I will do for Michael Clarke after his final Test, later this month, at The Oval. For now, I would like to explore some of the complexities of the failings around Michael Clarke and the Australian cricket team. I will be asking many questions but I don’t really know the answers.

While CA would like to think they are more transparent in this day and age, I think it is beneficial to remember that the average guy in the street has no idea of what really happens behind closed doors. It is useful to keep this in mind when forming opinions on a great player who deserves respect.

Michael Clarke’s form has been poor in recent times. His performance in the immediate past, in his own words, has been “unacceptable” (interview with star reporter and BFFL, Shane Warne post match). Clarke has struggled for form since he returned to the team following the recurrence of hamstring troubles at the beginning of last summer. In six Tests he has not reached 50. But it is more complicated than that. In the two years prior to this Ashes, Clarke had been inconsistent. While he scored five centuries in that time, including some truly epic innings (the 187 at Old Trafford in 2013, 161 with a broker shoulder against South Africa in March 2014 and 128 in Adelaide following a very emotional time were all truly great innings), he has not passed fifty in any other innings.

Clarke is just 34 years old. In this day and age, you would expect a few more years out of him. Why did he retire from international cricket effective almost immediately? Was this a case of dropping himself, or was he told he was going to be dropped and retiring seemed the most dignified option? Are there other factors that contributed to his decision to retire that also contributed to his struggle for form. Clarke was not only struggling with the bat. In the last two Tests he dropped a couple of regulation catches and second slip.

To put Clarke’s age into perspective, I have listed the retirement age of the recent captains and also some of his modern peers. I have restricted the list to specialist batsmen because bowlers and wicket keepers have a different shelf life to batsmen.

Captains

Taylor (34y 67d)
Ponting (37y 347d)
Waugh (38y 214d)
Border (38y 241d)

Batsmen

Boon (35y 27d)
Langer (36y 42d)
Hayden (37y 66d)
M Waugh (37y 139d)
M Hussey (37y 221d)

Clarke will be around 34 years and 144 days when the 5th Test concludes. That is around the same age as Mark Taylor. All the other captains were three years older or more. All of the batting peers were older, especially in the most recent times.

Captains do get more tolerance during form slumps, especially winning captains. Mark Taylor had a horrific run before he turned it around in 1997 and had another 18 months. At the time the team was sweeping all aside and in any other circumstances, Taylor would have been dropped. Steve Waugh was under pressure as well before making a similar recovery. It must also be remembered that like Taylor, Clarke has had chronic back troubles, not to mention hamstrings. That has been a burden for Michael Clarke for many years.

I don’t want to be indelicate but it should be remembered that the death of Phillip Hughes hit Michael Clarke very hard. The nation was gutted by the death of Hughes and Clarke earned admiration and respect in the way that he handled his own grief and was the spokesman for the Australian cricket community. That was only about 9 months ago. I wonder how much Clarke is still affected by that tragedy.

And with Clarke, it is even more complicated. Clarke interviews well. He always handles the press nicely and is often disarmingly honest and seemingly open. His candor at times has made me uncomfortable – while I think it was admirable to be honest enough to make a comment that it was easy for England because they were only playing 10 players, I have to wonder if that comment was best for the team and for Clarke himself. But there have also been times when I wondered if Clarke walked the talk. Did he sometimes say the right things in public but not follow that up behind closed doors? Mickey Arthur was hung over the “homework” fiasco. Michael Clarke gave his full support at the time but when Arthur got the bullet, there were no negative impacts for Clarke. In in the fallout from HomeworkGate, Clarke assured the world that everything was cool with him and Watto. Watson’s behaviour was not consistent with that, nor was the file that Mickey Arthur released after his sacking.

And it should not be forgotten that Clarke was at loggerheads with CA just before the Hughes tragedy. There was a dispute about how Clarke would qualify for the 1st Test against India. Clarke was ready to test out CA and do it his way. That was rightly put aside but it was never resolved.

And even further back, when Clarke was captain in waiting, there was the Katich affair. That was when Katich had to be stopped from punching Clarke’s head in because Clarke wanted the team song to be sung so that he could shoot through. So, while Clarke does seem a good bloke on the one hand, he had made his enemies over the years.

We will probably need to wait until next year when the book comes out to find out all the details of Clarke’s retirement decision. There are many things that could have contributed to his reasons for leaving the game. Some of them may have been a lack of support in the team or the authorities. It might have been just because he has had enough of fighting injury. Maybe he felt that with Steve Smith in the wings, having had a very successful debut as captain, that there is someone else ready to take over.

At any rate, Clarke has been a heavyweight or world cricket. His final series, as with Ponting’s will not contain many happy memories. Australian cricket has some problems and they are certainly not restricted to Michael Clarke. For now, I hope that the Australians can pull it together and put on some sort of show for Clarke’s final match. It would also be nice for all cricket fans if an Ashes Test can extend beyond three days.