Clarke, a prisoner of Australian public perception

April 9th, 2011 - 1:07 pm ICT by ANI  

Melbourne, Apr. 9 (ANI): Public expectations of Australia’s 43rd cricket captain Michael Clarke are high and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that he is a prisoner of them.

According to Australia’s best-known cricket writer Robert Craddock, the country’s sports-loving public will expect him to be confident, but not arrogant, hard-edged but fair, well behaved but not a wowser, a man apart but also a man of the people.

The captain receives a six-figure bonus - for many years it was $100,000 but it would be much more now - as a sweetener for all the times he is misjudged, misquoted, called into meetings etc.

According to Craddock’s article in the Courier Mail, its probably a good thing that former Australian captain Lindsay Hassett is not alive to see the national headlines created when Clarke got a piggyback home from his own birthday party last week.

Hassett, he says, would have been aghast. He would have made a long face and muttered, “you call that a controversy”.

During his days in the cricketing limelight, Hassett was two things that are totally incompatible in our modern world - a Test captain and a serial prankster.

Once at Nottingham in the 1950s when arriving late for a black-tie function he literally broke the ice by slipping an ice cube down the back of a lady’s skirt. When the lady rose in shock he slipped a cube down her front. On another time he playfully said to the mayor of an English city: “If I pull the chain, will you flush?”

Hassett not only acted the goat - he even brought one home. He caught one on tour in England and put it in Bill O’Reilly’s hotel room.At one time when Ricky Ponting was not captain, he was bold enough to try some dressing room pranks on Steve Waugh early in his career. But once he became captain it all had to end.

England started Test cricket the same day as Australia yet they have had 79 Test captains. Australia has had just 43. In Australia, the honour is handed down a like precious family jewel. Clarke is not a man of substantial colour, but the men who preceded him were dripping with it.

Before the game turned professional in the late 1980s Australia’s captains came from all sorts of exotic backgrounds. There was a strong white-collar presence with a dentist, a pharmacist, a stockbroker and a company director, but also less glamour professions such as a plumber, a grazier, a postman and a whisky agent.

Since “Handsome Dave” Gregory, the son of an orphan, an accused chucker and financial genius, stepped out to lead six Victorians and five New South Welshmen in Australia in 1877, everything and nothing has changed.

Australia had its first Test captain 24 years before it had its first prime minister and it used to be said in the early to mid years of the 1900s that many Australian citizens could rattle off the list of Test captains more readily than the list of prime ministers.

The job brings special stresses, even for the sharpest minds. Greg Chappell scored two centuries when he took over the Test captaincy against the West Indies in Brisbane in 1975-76, yet when he set his field for the first over of the match bowled by Dennis Lillee something slipped his mind.

“I walked back to slip, thought everything was in place, then suddenly it hit me I had not posted a mid-off,” Chappell said.

Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor reckoned about five years was the right length for a captain and they stayed that long. Allan Border remarkably endured 10 heavy duty years and did so without changing his home phone number.

Australia was led by men who barely touched a drink (Don Bradman) to others (Vic Richardson) who considered a few quiet drinks before bed an essential part of the team bonding process.

Australia was captained by those with no interest in gambling (Steve Waugh) to those who loved one like Herbie Collins, who became a bookmaker in life after cricket.

Michael Clarke enters the job with an open canvas. No one knows what his fate will be - only that history will never forget him. (ANI)

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