A New Man for a New Generation

Date: December 6, 2011 / Posted by control

Michael Clarke’s ascension to Test captain was always going to be a tough sell for many of the game’s traditionalists. Many aging Test cricket followers weren’t quite ready for a man of Clarke’s looks and personality.

But to borrow from legendary lyricist, Bob Dylan, ‘The times they are a changin'”, and cricket was never going to be immune to that change.

Michael Clarke represents a fork in the road – the first member of Generation Y to take the reins of the national side. Die-hard Test cricket fans had a problem with accepting a man with tattoos, an earring bleached hair and a highly publicized private life as the figurehead of Australian cricket.

They were used to men who outwardly displayed that tough as teak look – men like Steve Waugh, Allan Border, Ian Chappell and Ricky Ponting. Not some young bloke with all the accoutrements of the modern man. Twenty20 and one-day captain perhaps but Test captain, God forbid.

But, not surprisingly, younger fans of the game couldn’t see a problem with a man like Clarke wearing the blazer and wandering out for the toss of the coin in the Test arena – moreover they advocated it and relished in the thought.

Cricket Australia’s own polling of the fans indicated as much. So was Clarke chosen by the men around CA’s board table purely for the impact he may have on the marketing of the game? The answer is a resounding NO!

Groomed from a young age as a future skipper, Clarke has proven his worth and tactical acumen during his reign as one-day captain. His 35 matches at the helm to date in the 50-over game have reaped a win-loss percentage that outstrips almost everyone.

Of those to have led their country in the one-day arena a minimum of 25 times, Clarke’s winning percentage of 74 is second only to Clive Lloyd (76). Clarke’s immediate predecessors – Ponting (72%), Steve Waugh (63%) and Mark Taylor (54%) – all sit in his wake.

Already, in Test ranks, he has displayed an ability to pull a rabbit out of the hat – take Michael Hussey’s recent performances with the ball and David Warner’s introduction to the bowling crease at the Gabba against New Zealand where the part-timer should have had a wicket with his first ball in Test ranks.

Clarke has also flourished with the bat since inheriting the top job. Three centuries in his past four Tests in charge shows he is clearly a man who can lead by example. His 151 in the first innings of the ill-fated Cape Town Test last month was a gem.

So far, he has won a series in Sri Lanka and drawn another in South Africa – no mean feat with a side still very much in transition. To date, with both the bat and the win column in his favour, Clarke is starting to win over the naysayers.

It may well be a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man as the cricket world continues to morph into an era of Gen Y leaders.