Michael Clarke has a new autobiography on the shelves, available this Tuesday. It looks like it'll be a decent read. But there's another thing he's also selling. It's a commodity we've had a decade-and-a-half to decide whether we want to purchase, yet we're still ummming and aaahing about it.
That thing is Michel Clarke.
Michael Clarke is a super likeable guy in the flesh. He's thoughtful, chatty and thoroughly good company over a coffee. A family man nowadays, he has interests beyond cricket, which include numerous charitable causes and alpacas. Yes, alpacas. He has nine on his NSW southern highlands property, and loves them.
But beyond his obvious affection for domesticated South American camelids, there's perhaps another reason why alpacas are such good company for Clarke. Alpacas don't talk about him behind his back. They don't judge him. They don't analyse his every mood and impulse and decide he's a good bloke, or otherwise, on account of them.
Clarke has always been a divisive figure. He was on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, and the intro to the show made a good point when it said:
Making brutal player assessments is part of the sport of watching the sport. And of course every Australian fan has an opinion about Michael Clarke.
We do indeed have our opinions. And there has always been an element of hypocrisy with some people's opinion of Clarke.
The 60 Minutes program showed the unassuming brick home in which he grew up in the decidedly unhip outer Sydney suburb of Liverpool. He spoke of the poster of a Ferrari on his bedroom wall, which he later went out and bought (to widespread disdain). But we love battlers who do good, don't we? Isn't that the Australian narrative? Was not the young Clarke in his flashier days a prime example of Australian aspiration writ large?
There were other examples of our hypocrisy. Right when everyone was treating their arms like a painter's canvas, Clarkey was getting tatts too. At a moment in time when all the footballers were getting model girlfriends, he got one too. Just when we all started showing a bit of undie above our jeans, he did too.
But because he was the Australian cricket captain -- and because we kind of expected our captains to be old-fashioned and dad-like and crusty -- a lot of people thought he was a bit of a prat. As stated, it was hypocritical on our part.
But that's only half the story. The other half is that Michael Clarke always seemed to possess the one trait no Australian admires. In short, he came across as needy. He wanted to be liked just a little too much. And frankly, Sunday's night's 60 Minutes show did little to dispel that perception.
"I've apologised enough for my younger self. I haven't done anything wrong, I just did it my way," Clarke said on 60 Minutes, and fair enough.
Clarke was at pains in the interview to paint himself as a team man. He said the achievement which made him most proud was taking the Australian Test team from fifth in the world, back to the top spot. He said people mistook his passion and drive for perfection for selfishness.
"If I performed well, I was happy. If I performed badly, I was shattered," he said of his occasional mood swings which alienated him from certain teammates.
This was believable, but it was also the part of a job interview where the candidate has to say they suck at something, in order that they don't come across as an egomaniac. And the best Clarke could come up with was effectively, "I suck at controlling my emotions because I just care too much". Which didn't sound very humble or conciliatory, after all.
"Did your players like you as captain?" reporter Allison Langdon asked. It was a good question.
"I know they respected me."
"Which is more more important?"
"I would love both, but I care about one."
So Michael Clarke craves respect, as surely we all do. For his cricket deeds, he has it. But as a bloke? Well, some of his teammates clearly didn't respect him and probably never will. The headlines today are all about what he said about Shane Watson during THAT bustup, and what he said to Simon Katich during THAT dressing room fight.
Clarke manfully admitted that he perhaps hadn't thought enough about what some senior players wanted in that infamous SCG scene, when he wanted to get the team song out of the way and leave the dressing room early, at which point Katich grabbed him by the throat.
So the viewer had every reason to believe that OK, here's a guy who has reflected, and that maybe he would have done one or two things differently. But here's the thing. Michael Clarke still wants us to know he's not a bad person. In fact he's desperate for you to know it. That's why he did the interview, and financial matters side, it's no doubt why he's released a book 18 months after his retirement from international cricket.
"I had the same love and care for Australian cricket as the bloke that drove the Holden ute and drank VB," he said. "I hope the public got to see that in the end."
We did. We all got that he loved and respected cricket. So why are we still being told? That's the bit that sits uncomfortably, that makes people feel, geez mate, just give it a rest, will ya?
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