Cricket World Cup 2011

The day Aussies went 'soft'?

2011-04-01 06:30
New boy in town, Michael Clarke. (AFP)

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – We live in a fast-changing world anyway, but the moment yours truly finally twigged that a new era was upon us has come.
I refer to the appointment this week of Michael Clarke as full-time captain of Australia at both Test and one-day international level.

Wow, I never thought we’d see the day when a pretty face led out the Baggy Greens. (Let’s be honest, if you encountered “Pup” wielding an axe in your house in the wee hours you’d be tempted to simply offer him a calming cup of tea and a cookie.)

He brings a bit of bling, a bit of paparazzi, to the Aussie party, considering that he was formerly, sometimes stormily engaged to fashion model Lara Bingle.

He also has an earring and a Twitter account, that relatively lightweight forum which only further demonstrates, by and large, why cricketers are cricketers and not scientists, surgeons or even passers of Grade Five spelling tests.

No special objections on any of these scores from this reasonably open-minded old fart ... but blow me down with a Kamp Staaldraad sleeper, I grew up observing, even if often from afar, an entirely different breed of Australian skipper.

I even have some fairly first-hand realisation of the essential hardness that marked several predecessors, and the fire that burned in them.
For one thing, I was at Headingley that tumultuous day when Steve Waugh’s hitherto labouring Australia earned a World Cup 1999 lifeline (and crucial mindset tonic) by pipping South Africa after a demanding chase in the Super Six meeting: “Tugga’s” match-winning knock of 120 not out remains the most memorable, gritty and utterly belligerent captain’s international innings I have seen from close quarters.

And we’ll probably never really know – though if anyone was going to say it, it would have been him – whether Waugh really did acidly tell Herschelle Gibbs he’d “just dropped the World Cup” after that infamous fumble and spill at a key stage.

In 2001/02, I was at Perth’s WACA to witness Australia beat South Africa in a VB Series ODI encounter – though also a little humiliatingly bow out, on the grounds of run-rate considerations, of a triangular event Shaun Pollock’s men would go on to win.

Already under strong domestic media pressure to relinquish his role as Aussie one-day captain, it was the tipping point in his reluctant demise, and he was clearly in no mood for goodwill and bonhomie at the post-match press conference.

I was innocently entering the room, after being delayed filing a story, when Waugh brushed past me while leaving the lively “presser”, very audibly venturing: “This room’s full of f***ing c***heads.”

While a little startling, it did just remind me that the Aussies traditionally didn’t “do” gentlemanly, mild-disposition folk as national cricket captain. Nor did these men ever go out of their way to court popularity.

Their leaders, after all, have also included Ian Chappell, even at 67 not averse to revisiting old grudges with an England foe in a car park, and Allan Border.

Ah, “AB” ... we were in the thick of isolation in South Africa, but many of us who nevertheless closely followed international cricket in print form will not forget the brutal way he reportedly coaxed a shivery, shaky rookie Dean Jones to continued crease-occupation against India at burning-hot Madras (now Chennai) in 1986.

Jones, playing just his third Test, wanted to retire ill, debilitated by dehydration, diarrhoea and vomiting. Border, legend has it, cuttingly suggested he should do so ... and that “a real Australian” could replace him at the crease.

Through his haze of indisposition, “Deano” appeared to get the message and went on to 210.

And now the increasingly tetchy – think smashed TV, think animatedly giving an earful to a World Cup 2011 teammate who had the audacity to nearly get in the way of his catch – Ricky Ponting has gone from the “armband” too.

So it really is all change at the Aussie tiller as Clarke, widely considered to be minus a nasty bone in his body, takes charge.

Let’s be fair to the young man: there is no certainty at all that his tenure will end in real-deal tears one day, a la the once landmark, contempt-laden case of Kim Hughes.

But maybe the jury’s out.


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Cricket World Cup 2011

The day Aussies went 'soft'?

2011-04-01 07:37

Newly appointed Michael Clarke seems to represent a seismic change to Australian cricket captaincy characteristics. Read More


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