One series does not a career make. We celebrate pup, a sometimes alienating presence, but undeniably one of the most passionate, determined and talented men to sport the baggy green.
“The things that made me were the highs and the lows – that’s what made me the cricketer I was when I retired,” chimes Australian cricket’s 43rd skipper, Michael Clarke.
“And the lows do a lot to give you a real kick up the backside in making sure you never take things for granted.”
Highs and lows. Clarke rode a few during his time pulling on the Baggy Green, as both the player known as Pup and in his role as top dog. One thing that’s never wavered, however, is his passion for this unique game of bat and ball and love of serving Australia at the highest level.
His is a career many fanatics have at times chipped, particularly in those brash, early days and his entanglement with Lara Bingle (now Worthington). But speak to him – sit down and spend any time with the 34-year-old, and you’ll quickly realise he sports a heavy suit of pride for cricket and country.
Failing that, failing the opportunity to engage the former leader, then dust off a recording of his 151 on debut against a potent Indian side and let it speak of his naturally gifted and obvious talent. As for unfaltering toughness – catch his ton against India at the Adelaide Oval last December, a week after he stood and eulogised, tearfully and eloquently, the life of “little brother” Phillip Hughes.
For added stoicism and staunch determination, return to Clarke’s knock at Newlands, Cape Town in March 2014, where he managed 161 not out against South Africa, specifically Morne Morkel, batting through the pain of wearing stitched, leather-bound bullets, one of which, at 147 km/h, shattered his shoulder. Still he played on and fought to victory – significant as the win returned Australia to No.1 in the world.
Highs and lows. It’s an apt, if simplistic, way to view this, the final season of the dogged batsman and contemporary captain. The Ashes weren’t the best – results swinging like a well-pitched Jimmy Anderson dart, with a supposed-to-be underdone English team coming out on top. But too few forget that just months earlier – with a one-day squad still raw with emotion over losing Hughes – Clarke led Australia to a World Cup win on home soil.