So Australian cricket coach Mickey Arthur has stood down four players from the third Test in India for failing to identify three points by which their performances might be improved.
If I was an Australian cricketer, here’s what I would have slipped under Arthur’s door.
I would have given him his three points, and I would have made them ridiculously simple.
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Righto then. Let’s hear it from all you Michael Clarke haters out there.
Go on, give it your best shot. Let’s hear it from you cricket geniuses who said a bloke who exfoliates could never be relied upon to make runs in a tight scrape.
Let’s hear it from you big, tough know-it-alls who said a namby-pamby bloke called “Pup” wasn’t fit to carry the kit bags of blokes with rugged nicknames like Punter, Tugga and Tubby, let alone carry their proud captaincy legacy.
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Line a modern sportsman up next to the stars of decades past and you will struggle to believe that they even hail from the same species. The younger man is bigger, buffer, much prettier and way more sober.
This is a truly cataclysmic thing, if anyone over the age of thirty is to be believed. The wizened heads of this world seem to pine endlessly for the days of airborne booze fests and handlebar moustaches.
Well, those days are long gone, and they are never coming back. Nor should they. Today’s stars may be pampered, preened, excessively moisturised brats, but they have also raised the standards of sport to unprecedented levels.
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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.
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The yips. It’s an old golf term which refers to golfers who lose the ability to putt. They stand over the ball and they tremble. They quake. They can barely hold the damn club, let alone propel the ball into a hole that suddenly appears the size of a thimble.
The term has since migrated across to other sports. Beijing gold medallist Steve Hooker today admitted that he has the pole vault yips. He just can’t place that pole in the right spot anymore, and his London campaign is in severe jeopardy.
If it’s any consolation Steve, you’re not the only person struggling to get your mojo back. Several other prominent Australians across all walks of life have totally lost the ability to do the thing they were once pretty good at. Here are five more prominent cases of the Yips. The Punch heartily invites more suggestions from you.
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Not for a minute did I fail to enjoy watching Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting make the Indian “attack” look like a very weak defence yesterday afternoon.
And if you think that two double negatives make for a confusing opening line to this story, you’re right. But it’s hard to be positive when there were so many negatives in the big picture of yesterday’s first day of the Adelaide Test.
India are dead. They are last week’s vindaloo. They are a bloated cow carcass floating down the Ganges. And they should go home. They should not even be playing this Test.
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When Australian skipper Michael Clarke raised his bat to celebrate his historic triple century at the SCG it showed a man becoming aware of his stature in the game.
Instead of pointing to a bat sponsor - a deal which can be valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars - he gestured towards the McGrath Foundation sticker placed there earlier that day.
Clarke’s manager James Erskine later explained the skipper had split with Slazenger and he is still mid-negotiation with two or three companies to finalise a deal.
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Say hello to our latest sporting hero. He’s had quite the journey to get to this point.
“Michael Clarke now walks with giants”, The Daily Telegraph editorialised yesterday. That was before he became only the third Australian ever to score a triple century on Australian soil. It’s a feat that pales only in comparison with Sir Donald Bradman’s 452 not out against Queensland at the SCG.
But Clarke is no Mr 99.94, lionised by all in perpetuity. He belongs in a different category of Australian hero altogether. Clarke is one of those superstars who we, the fickle Australian general public, only seem to really care for when they’re winning.
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In legendary English cricketer, Freddie Trueman’s biography, You Nearly Had Me that Time, Alan Wharton notes: “It’s a well-known fact that when I’m on 99, I’m the best judge of a run in all the bloody world.” The same could be said for Ricky Ponting’s long awaited century.
I suspect I was not alone with my heart in my mouth yesterday when Ponting set off for a chancy run that gave him his ton. He would have been out by a metre if the ball had hit the stumps, but as the fates would have it, he made his ground. In doing so, Ponting not only answered his critics but settled a few yips.
But beyond the broad smile, triumphant wave of a bat and a very dirty shirt from his desperate slide, this was a ton with more than a little meaning. It showed Ponting made good his declaration that he believes he has still got what it takes to be a world class cricketer. That much is settled. So what else? Plenty.
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Kiwi captain Ross Taylor gave Australian selectors a choice piece of advice over the weekend, urging them to continue to select stuttering opener Phil Hughes.
It was an admirable bit of cheek, but Taylor can hardly talk. His side’s entire batting lineup, himself included, knows more about who’s bonking who on Days of our Lives than they do about the action in the middle of a cricket ground. Just one of the Kiwi top six passed 50 in the Brisbane Test.
As tempting as it must have been for Clarke to counter with a quip to the effect that he hopes New Zealand pick the entire New Zealand team again, Taylor actually had a point. Hughes is snicko’s best friend. He is a one man fielding drill for the entire Kiwi cordon. And he has dished up a doozy of a dilemma for his friend and skipper Michael Clarke.
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Winemakers will tell you that the key to getting a really good harvest of prime grapes is to trick the vines into thinking they’re dying. Give them just enough water, but only just enough, and the vines will divert every last precious drop of moisture into the fruit and produce a bumper crop.
Overnight, the Test careers of several leading Australian players were in danger of withering, as runs and wickets had dried up. But like the vines, the likes of Mitchell Johnson, Brad Haddin, Mike Hussey and Ricky Ponting extracted just enough to help their team deliver the sweetest of victories.
Last night’s thrilling two wicket win over South Africa was rightly hailed as a victory for the future of Australian cricket, as 18 year old tyro Patrick Cummins backed up his six wicket second innings haul with a nerveless knock which included his hitting the winning runs.
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Look who’s making runs again. His name’s Ricky Ponting, and you might remember him from such failed captaincy campaigns as the 2005 Ashes, the 2009 Ashes and the 2010/11 Ashes.
OK, so the guy wasn’t all bad news as skipper. There was, after all, that 2006/07 Ashes whitewash, and those unbeaten 2007 and 2003 World Cup campaigns.
But captaincy undoubtedly took its toll on Ponting. First came the spats and hissy fits, as his mental state clearly disintegrated. Then he lost the ability to hit the ball. As the ship skippered by Captain Ricky sank, his batting average went with it. Australian cricket couldn’t afford either of those things.
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Michael Clarke did a very Michael Clarke thing this week. He announced, in a major interview with one of the nation’s largest tabloids, that he intends to keep a lower profile for a while.
So Clarke goes public to say he’ll be keeping out of the public eye. Then who pops up like magic? The Dalai Lama, that’s who. Coincidence? No. Why not? Because there’s a very good argument that they’re the same person, that’s why.
This is no joke. For months, The Punch has been secretly tracking the Twitter streams of both his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and His Supreme Vainness, the 43rd cricket Captain of Australia. The results are thought-provoking to say the least…
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Ricky Ponting had a lot to live up to when he took over as captain of Australia from Steve Waugh, but two more World Cup titles, a maiden Champions Trophy and equaling Waugh’s 16 test record winning streak cemented him as a leader to rival his predecessor.
But if Ponting had big shoes to fill, his successor - Michael Clarke - will look like he’s stepping into Ronald McDonald’s boots.
Fairfax journalist Roy Masters perfectly summed up up the feelings of the Australian public on the issue of Clarke as the next commander-in-chief of the Baggy Green brigade.
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News today from The Daily Telegraph today that Australian cricket vice-Captain Michael Clarke and sometime opener Phillip Hughes were out at Crown Casino the night before the disastrous fourth day of the Melbourne Ashes Test.
I am rather comforted by this news. Hopefully Clarke and Hughes were hungover throughout the Melbourne Test as it could go some way to explaining their rubbish batting.
Perhaps it would help the country if a picture emerged of the entire squad downing shots tequila and snorting lines ketamine in an Oxford Street club the night before the Sydney Test. We would be reassured as a nation that Australia’s awful performances this summer did not just look drug induced.
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If surveys are to be believed, the vast majority of Australians believe that new Australian captain Michael Clarke is an incurable wanker. On the evidence of the last couple of years, it’s hard to argue. Yet beneath the Sunday social pages facade, I’m convinced there’s a good guy waiting to bust out. And an even better captain waiting to take over.
About a year ago, I interviewed Clarke at a photo shoot for Alpha magazine. In a down moment between shots, two Alpha staff members swear they heard him say under his breath “what am I doing here?”
Understandably, my colleagues were pretty taken aback by that unexpected comment.
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Oh dear. Oh deary, deary me. So I’m channel surfing on the couch last night pondering the inevitable demise of 50 over cricket.
Turns out, I was penning a eulogy for the wrong victim. It’s not One Day cricket that’s dead. It’s Australian cricket’s golden era.
Look, obviously we all knew we were in trouble when guys like Warne, McGrath and Gilly retired. But hands up who didn’t think we could hang tough and rebuild this summer with a few old heads to nurse the young guys to maturity? Not now. In whatever format you care to name, Australia is now officially a rabble.
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What a week. A wave of elation swept the country in celebration of previously unimaginable sporting success. New national heroes were born.
Or you were in Australia, where some world-beating, inspirational achievements went largely unnoticed and the nation is now facing into 18 busy sporting months where victories could well be the exception rather than the expectation.
Depending on your point of view, Australian sport is at one of its lowest-ever ebbs, or in a golden era of success – just in a bunch of sports that nobody cares very much about. Australians now bestride the world in motor sport, snooker, women’s cricket and pole vaulting.
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``How do you start a small business? Give Warwick Fairfax a big one’‘, should be reworked in a PR context in honour of Australia’s pre-eminent spiv, the celebrity publicist Max Markson.
The events of the past few days have demonstrated, in my view, that if you really want to damage your reputation, you should hire Max Markson to defend it.
In a few days, Markson has helped pull off an extraordinary feat in relation to his new client, Lara Bingle. His contributions have only helped to further turn what seems like the entire country against this girl when, less than a week ago, she was enjoying rare public support after being belittled and demeaned by one of the biggest yobbos to grace an Australian sports field.
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Update - 8pm: A Current Affair has reported that Clarke has ended his relationship with Bingle. Read the news.com.au report here.
I’ve been thinking for a while now that the Australian cricket team and the huge machinery around it contained a bunch of over-paid, under-developed, spoiled brats happily trapped in a pre-feminist world, but today really tipped it over the edge for me.
It’s clear the cricket mob is not coping with the loss of the good old days when wives maintained a dignified presence at home for 10 months of the year while their husbands traveled their way around the world safely cocooned in the mantra “what goes on tour stays on tour.”
According to Peter Roebuck, Robert Craddock, Mark Waugh, and just about every other bloke with an opinion on this, Lara Bingle didn’t get the memo that it’s her job to stay at home and play a “quiet, dignified supporting role.”
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Who needs Posh ‘n’ Becks? Australian cricket vice-captain Michael Clarke and his model girlfriend Lara Bingle have confirmed themselves as the nation’s celebrity circus couple.
Clarke is known for being unhappy with the ongoing publicity that surrounds their relationship but its effect has reached a nadir with him quitting the team camp on the eve of a one-day match against New Zealand because his girlfriend was upset.
This is no Hollywood couple’s restaurant flare-up. Clarke’s sudden and stunning decision to return to Sydney to be with Bingle raises questions on his future role in the team and ability to focus on his cricket. Clarke has been a consistently excellent performer and is the favourite to succeed Ricky Ponting as captain.
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