Clarke and Warner walking divergent paths

Date: December 10, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Warner & ClarkeMichael Clarke stepped on to the Adelaide Oval to a rousing reception.

He had desperately wanted to be there and the fans had wanted him there too.

Over the past ten days the world witnessed a different side of the Australian skipper as he wore his heart on his sleeve whilst endeavouring to provide strength to the family of Phillip Hughes, his teammates past and present, and cricket fraternity in general.

As time ticked down to the rescheduled start of the series the hope that Clarke would be fit to play intensified.

In the end he satisfied those that needed to be convinced.

He had extended batting sessions in the nets and underwent fielding and agility drills.

The troublesome hamstring was deemed to be healed sufficiently to allow him to toss the coin.

The moment then came for him to enter the fray.

He combined with David Warner for a century stand – an enormously fitting partnership given the pair were the closest men in the team to Hughes.

While Clarke was not batting with the fluency of Warner he was ticking the scoreboard over nonetheless.

When he reached 37 he glanced to the heavens in an acknowledgment that between he and his late great mate they were a combined 100 not out.

He was on 60, with his 10-Test average at the ground at 103, when everything went pear-shaped.

A half swivel to a wayward leg side bouncer from Ishant Sharma produced a grimace.

Clarke immediately felt something in his troublesome back.

He lay on his stomach beside the pitch to do some stretching exercises and then found it difficult to get back up.

All of a sudden things became dire.

After a tense few minutes consulting with both team doctor and physio he departed the field.

Just when he returns to the fray is at this stage unknown – later in the match, later in the series, by the World Cup?

Many people took to social media decrying his selection although many of those same cyber messengers were no doubt happy to have seen him chosen in the first place.

Hamstring and back injuries often go hand in hand and in Clarke’s case it is a pretty sure bet that is the case.

The hamstring injury that he fought desperately to overcome did not appear to hamper him yet his back let him down.

The medicos had seemed happy that his hamstring had recovered sufficiently to allow him to take his place.

But could they foresee that his back was in such an immediately fragile state and that it would likely give way during the match?

That is now the million dollar question.

No matter the time Clarke spends away from the game recuperating can the nature of his degenerative back injury ever be given an unqualified tick in the future?

Or will it be a matter of crossing one’s fingers and holding one’s breath when he returns.

If there was a feeling that his back was an issue ahead of this match but he was green lighted to play on the back of all that had happened of late that is one thing but if it was thought that the hamstring was OK and there was no sign of another impending back injury the problem for Australian cricket one of considerable size.

As of this moment there is the distinct possibility that one of the great careers in Australian cricket may be perilously close to ending.

And given all that has transpired in the past fortnight and the naysayers that Clarke has won over it would be a crying shame.

Warner, on the other hand, carries no such burden.

On the opening day of the series he again underlined the fact that he is the most valuable batsman in the Australian line-up.

With nobody quite knowing what to expect on the first day Warner took it upon himself to set the tone.

Three fours blazed from his bat to the off-side boundary in the second over of the innings.

His opening partner Chris Rogers was effectively a spectator as a rollicking Warner took the total to 0-38 after just four overs.

And then, when Ishant Sharma was shortly thereafter brought into the attack and became the first bowler to tighten up on line and length, Warner’s cricketing maturity came to the fore.

In days past he would likely have eschewed changing gears and simply thrown his wicket away.

Not anymore.

He reined himself in and batted with the team as his main concern rather than entertainment value or carefree self-expression.

He may have eased his foot from the accelerator but his rampaging early assault still allowed him to reach his century off just 105 balls.

It was his fourth ton in as many Tests and the 10th of his short 33-Test career.

He fell for 145 having elevated his career average to 49.1.

While others have struggled over the past year Warner has simply gotten better.

His last three series have been stellar – 523 runs at 58.1 against England; 543 at 90.5 against the world number one South Africans; and 239 at 59.8 against Pakistan.

Not bad for a man who was a controversial selection when he debuted in the baggy green three years ago.

It was argued his technique and temperament would never allow for a long-term Test career.

His domain would always be the pyjama-clad versions of the sport.

How wrong we were.

Warner is now the most valuable wicket to any opponent.

As evidenced by the first half hour at Adelaide he can singlehandedly deflate an opponent and nowadays it is done with calculation rather than brashness.

Warner has the cricketing world at his feet.

He has the mindset, technique, eye and desire to amass one of the great individual careers.

And as he continues to do so we have to sit and wonder how much of it will be shared firsthand in the future by his current skipper.

First published on The Roar – theoar.com.au – on 10 December 2014