Michael Clarke: All hail Australia’s golden boy!
The ‘pup’, as he was affectionately known as in the Australian cricket circles during his early days, Michael Clarke has matured into an enforcing bulldog who knows no fear.
Clarke was marked for greatness from a very young age but would often gift away his wickets to the opposition while looking to play strokes. There was and still is no stroke that he cannot play, but the difference from back then is that he now has a more calculated approach and is the prized wicket in the Australian line up as his second successive double hundred against South Africa showed.
This has been a golden year for the golden boy, as he has racked up four scores in excess of 200 in the eight Test matches that he has played this year with one of them being over 300. In the process, he became the first man in cricketing history to achieve this unique feat. Not even the great Bradman accomplished this. He averages an astronomical 140.55 for the year to date.
Clarke took over the reins of the team from Ponting at a stage where the Australians were down in the dumps having fallen quite a few places from their lofty heights of the number one team that they had maintained for over a decade. A question mark hung over how this Australian side, without the stars that led them to rule the roost, would get back in the reckoning of the best team in the world.
This is where Clarke’s astute, inspiring and creative leadership came into play and in a short time he has brought the team at the precipice of the number one ranking, which they will usurp if they beat South Africa in the ongoing Test series. He has led from the front and averages 75 with seven hundreds to his name as the captain of the side.
Critics have questioned his ability to play the short ball but it isn’t a weakness in his armour. Yes, he does look a little uncomfortable, even ungainly, against the short ball but as his recent penchant for big scores have shown, coming in Australian condition where the short ball weakness can easily be exploited, it isn’t a limitation.
Another source of criticism has been his apparent reluctance to take the number three spot in the batting line up. The old wisdom is that the best batsman of the side should bat at that spot. But when a batsman can dish out centuries like he does coming at number five and dictate the terms to the opposition, who are we to question his batting position.
Even Tendulkar, widely acknowledged as the best batsman of this era, hasn’t batted at number three much during his career.
They say a batsman’s best days come when he is in his thirties. If that holds true, we will be seeing a lot more of Clarke’s genius in the coming years. With Tendulkar, Ponting and Kallis all nearing retirement age, he will be the torch bearer of batsman-ship in the near future.
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