The Michael Clarke & Lara Bingle saga

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Well…I’ve been putting this off, hoping that I wouldn’t really have to admit that this was an issue that needed addressing on this site. But, I’m afraid I’m bursting at the seams, and need to have my say on the Michael Clarke and Lara Bingle fiasco. So, here goes…

If you haven’t heard of this bizarre issue, then I’ll quickly bring you up to date. But, a warning, you may feel a little dirty after I’m through. Australian vice-captain Michael Clarke is, or should I say was, engaged to a bikini model named Lara Bingle. Bingle is, or should I say was, famous for a commercial in which she asked the world ‘Where the bloody hell are you??’ imploring tourists to visit Australia. A couple of years ago, before she was dating Clarke, Bingle had an extra-marital affair with Brendan Fevola, who is a high profile Australian footballer. Now, this event, although certainly big news at the time was mostly forgotten, however in the last couple of weeks a photo emerged that Fevola had taken, which showed Bingle nude in the shower. Apparently Fevola had sent this out to his mates, and it had then been sold to an Australian magazine. The problem really started to arise when Bingle decided to sell her angle on the issue to the same magazine that had published the photo. In the interview Bingle claimed that she never knew that Fevola had been married at the time, and tried to paint herself as an innocent victim. Claims are that Clarke had warned her that she shouldn’t do this, and as a result of the media furore that has exploded in the ensuing days, Clarke and Bingle have now split.

So, how does this sordid saga affect cricket you may ask. Well, the short answer is that it does and it doesn’t…hmmm…let me explain.

You see the role of wives and girlfriends in the Australian test team has been somewhat of a hot topic over the years. In the not so distant past they weren’t allowed to accompany the players on overseas tours, or in the changing rooms. However, over the last couple of decades this has shifted, particularly because of the fact that players realistically are on tour all year! However, there has been some resistance to this more relaxed approach. Former players, such as old grumpy himself Ian Chappell, have complained that woman have no place on tour, and even current players have been angered by the growing presence of what are referred to as the WAG’s (wives and girlfriends). In fact Bingle herself has been a point of contention before, with Simon Katich effectively feuding with Michael Clarke about him putting girlfriend above team.

Now, there are a couple of things I want to say about this issue.

The first is that I’m sick to death of cricketing scribes writing on this issue and saying that they think that no one should be writing about it, as it’s not a cricket issue. Well, if you feel that, don’t write about it! Yes, it’s unfortunate that this has become such a big thing, but hey, it is affecting cricket, as it has brought up issues surrounding the team, and Clarke pulled out of the last part of the ODI tour to deal with the problems.

The second thing is that I think this whole issue of wives and girlfriends being a bad influence on the team, is just absurd. I’ve heard a couple of people say ‘well, you don’t bring your girlfriend to your work do you!’ but that is just ridiculous. 99% of the population don’t have a job that involves travelling or staying with your team for most of the year. It is unfair to expect players to be away from their families for that amount of time. Furthermore there is more than a hint of sexism in these arguments. Sure, perhaps in the past the Australian team was a ‘boy’s club’ where what happened on tour stayed on tour, but that just doesn’t cut it as a response. Happy people make better cricketers, and no one can tell me that a player who is able to take his family around the world (when they can) for the short part of their life that they are an international cricketer will be a worse player.

I say that we should be able to discuss this issue, no, not the sordid details, which is unfortunately what the tabloid media obsesses over, but the broader issues that this saga raises. If we get to a place where there is better understanding and respect of players’ families, then at least there will be one positive aspect of the Clarke-Bingle affair.

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