Michael Clarke is no longer the Michael Clarke you knew, or thought you knew. Let's start with the alpacas. Clarke has a small herd of nine alpacas on his property near Berrima, about 90 minutes southwest of Sydney. He had ten alpacas but one "passed away", as he put it.
Note the turn of phrase. People pass away, but animals usually just "die". But if you're really close to an animal, then maybe you'll use the more respectful term "passed away". Like Clarkey did with his beloved alpacas.
"Alpacas are just unbelievable," he told The Huffington Post Australia over coffee. "They're very easy animals to look after and they're beautiful. They eat out of your hands and they're so easy to look after."
Clarke is in what you might call a transitional phase of life now, and you get the strong sense he's never been happier. He's a hands-on dad to seven-month-old daughter Kelsey Lee, and he splits his time between his home in Sydney's eastern suburbs and the Berrima property, where he also has chickens and cattle. So he's basically Farmer Pup or Papa Pup.
"I will definitely play some more club cricket for Western Suburbs this summer, but I haven't made any formal decision on whether I'm going to play any Twenty20 cricket this year," he said. "But I'm not going to play international cricket again, I'm happily retired from that."
Clarke's too busy for a whole lot of cricket now anyway. He puts his name to a bunch of different organisations and causes, and his latest thing is National Tree Day, which is this Sunday.
There's an interesting line on the National Tree Day website. It talks about how trees are essential not just for the environment, but for our daily wellbeing in an increasingly digitised world. It reads:
"Technology is everywhere these days. Research shows that when we give the bleepin' gadgets a break and just add nature, we grow healthier, happier, brighter, calmer and closer."
Clarkey's all over that as a concept. He's got a favourite tree at his property where he shares a spot of shade with the alpacas while he hand-feeds them. Every morning he walks his baby daughter Kelsey Lee in his backyard and marvels as she looks up to the trees and tries to touch them.
Clarke stops short of calling himself a "greenie", but he despairs about the way the world's going.
"All I want is for kids of today to have the same opportunities that I had growing up," he said.
"I think about my childhood, and 99 percent of it was outside. I played a lot of sport, I caught up with mates in the park, we would climb the tree out in my front yard when we were playing playing hide and seek.
"I think my childhood was based around being outside and being in environments where you can play openly and play freely, and I guess I would like that to continue to be the case for kids in 10, 20, 50, 100 years time. Having a daughter now it's part of my responsibility to make sure that happens."
That's the new Michael Clarke in a nutshell. Criticised in his early years as a cricketer because it was "all about him", he's a big picture guy now. It's about long walks with Kelsey Lee, clean living and good food. He gets plenty of the latter, by the way, from his wife Kyly. She has Italian heritage and Clarke says she's such a fantastic cook, they rarely eat out.
Clarke feels like he's managing his chronic back pain better than ever before too. "It's all connected and related," he said.
And the tree planting has nothing to do with guilt over all those cricket bats he used down the years?
"No," Clarke laughed. But a cricket bat is probably the only reason I think cutting down trees is necessary."Suggest a correction