Being English, Michael Clarke is not exactly one of my favourite cricketers. Along with Ponting, he is Australia’s premier test batsman and his performances at Lord’s, Edgbaston and Headingley came close to preventing England from regaining the Ashes; even if he was obligingly out cheaply in both innings at the Oval. There is also something of the school swot about him with his squeaky clean image and ‘say a lot, but say nothing’ press conferences.
When I first heard he was all over the front pages in Australia, I guessed that it might be due to the fact that he had finally managed to score at well over a run a ball in at T20I match – the tie with New Zealand. Once I realised the real reason, I groaned that this was another example of cricket becoming more like football. For Ashley and Cheryl Cole, now read Michael Clarke and Lara Bingle (read more about the Michael Clarke and Lara Bingle saga).
Incredibly it was not just the gutter press raking in the aftermath of Clarke’s doomed relationship. In this celebrity obsessed world, even Cricinfo focused as much on this in the run-up to the test series with the Kiwis as it did on the actual cricket. I suppose that given Clarke and Bingle cashed in on their relationship it is a case of ‘if you swim with the sharks, don’t be surprised when they bite you.’
Given the media frenzy (apparently over 30 Australian pressmen flew to New Zealand to cover the story) and the fact that Clarke had left the tour during the ODI series to try and save his relationship, it was pretty brave of him to front up at a press conference in the lead-up to the test. As usual, Australia’s captain-in-waiting didn’t say much of any substance, but fair play to him for facing the piranhas. For me, the funniest thing in the build-up was when Black Caps bowler Chris Martin was asked if his side would bait Clarke about his personal life. Instead of answering truthfully with ‘is the Pope Catholic?’, Martin pretended that the Kiwis would not stoop so low. Yeah, right!
All this meant that Clarke must have been under extreme pressure when he came to the crease. The temperature would have risen when Australia slipped to 176/4 when he had made only 17. Therefore, the fact that he made a century, ignoring his broken engagement and the ensuing media frenzy, adding an unbroken 140 with the also under pressure Marcus North suggests that Clarke has a strong ticker and high concentration levels.
Sky in the UK aren’t covering the series, but the reports I’ve read suggest that the innings was full of class and character, so hats off to you Pup. Today was the day you became a real top dog.
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