Michael Clarke 4.0. The transformation is complete
You’ve got to hand it to Michael Clarke. His reinvention is complete. He is now Michael Clarke 4.0. He wins, the haters lose.
Let’s go back to 2004. The first version of Michael Clarke is the young, likeable kid with blond tips and ugly reflective sunnies who makes a Test century for Australia on debut in India, then later snares 6-9 in the same series. Six for Nine! Not even Warney ever boasted figures like that.
And if you think the young Pup can do mean things with a cricket ball, you should see him bowl the ladies over. They love him! Australia loves him! Everybody loves him! And then they hate him.
The national hate affair unfolds as the scent of metrosexual wafts through the Australian dressing room and out onto the terraces where men wear Rexona and don’t exfoliate. In fact they can’t spell exfoliate. In fact, they don’t know there is a thing called exfoliation.
As Clarke’s popularity wanes, so does his batting. By late 2005 his average dips into the mid 30s and he is excused from Australian duties for the summer. He is back wearing the baggy green by mid 2006, which is about the time he meets Lara Bingle. Uh-oh.
Pup n Lara move into a swish Bondi pad and do loads of stupid ads for products with names like “Synergy” which no one ever buys because no one knows what purpose they actually serve – much like the Test selectors.
The Bingle Clarke pad overlooks Bondi Beach. Bearded photographers camp outside it, each of them as odious as the backpackers on the streets below. Michael and Lara are Australia’s Posh and Becks, and give every indication they love being positioned as exactly that. They don’t, however, necessarily appreciate the constant invasions of privacy.
Somewhere in this period comes the ill-advised Bonds undies ad in which Clarkey catches a tennis ball in his jocks. Also around this time, the happy couple announce that they are to be married. Then they announce they’re not. Whatever.
Meanwhile, Clarke is batting well again. He is Australia’s standout batsman in the futile 2009 Ashes campaign, and cricket fans almost start to like him again. Almost. And then comes the Lara nudey pic scandal. It has everything. A greedy agent, a dodgy footy player, nudity. Everything.
The next thing you know, the romance is on the rocks. Clarkey flies home from his tour in New Zealand and calls the whole thing off. He immediately knocks a brilliant century to celebrate.
Let’s speed this thing up. Clarke ditches the Bondi pad, moves to The Shire and holds a press conference to announce he will be keeping a lower profile. Does Australia love him? Nope, not yet.
It takes Ricky Ponting to open the floodgates of adoration. The minute he forcedly hands over the captaincy reigns, Clarke shows intuition and flair, nous and bravado. It’s like having Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh in one body. Australia even starts winning games again.
Do we love him? Starting to, but we still need a final reason to declare our allegiance. Even though it is now eight years after Clarke first came onto the international cricketing scene, and much of macho Australia has taken on exfoliation as part of its daily ritual, the deal is not yet sealed.
January 4th, 2012, dawns sunny and still. Or maybe it dawns grey and drizzly. Can’t really remember, as I pretty much just put that in for effect. Anyway, by the end of that day, Michael Clarke will be a monumental 251 not out.
He could bat most of the next day and still have time enough to bowl out India and win the game. In so doing, he could break Brian Lara’s record and plenty more. So what does he do? He declares on 329 not out. It is the ultimate selfless act. Actually, in all likelihood it is the ultimate act calculated to make Australia believe he is selfless, which he actually is, for the record.
See, that’s the thing with Clarke. He has gotten in such a PR knot with the Australian public, he has had to deliberately unspin a lot of that. This he has done with great skill, and the Michael Clarke you see today is actually pretty close to the way the guy always was. Seriously, he’s actually pretty down-to-earth. He’s as embarrassed about some of his indulgences as we were.
Oh, I almost forgot the last chapter. He then marries Kyly Boldy with not a single women’s mag in sight. And lives happily ever after. Or does he…?
Sharwood 4.0. Follow him on Twitter @antsharwood
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