Michael Clarke – above and beyond this past week

Date: December 5, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Clarke & HughesMateship is seen as one of the quintessential values in Australian society.

It is written into the country’s history with tales of it being forged in the rugged outback, by miners working endless hours underground and on the battlefields of Gallipoli and Western France.

Over the past week we have seen a very real, heartfelt example of just what mateship is.

Almost from the moment that Phillip Hughes was felled by a bouncer at the SCG last week his mate Michael Clarke was at his bedside – arriving at St Vincent’s Hospital early each morning and leaving late at night as he kept vigil.

He held his friend’s hand and willed him to get better.

He spent time consoling Hughes’ parents and siblings.

He comforted Sean Abbott, the 22-year-old who bowled the fateful delivery.

He was there for his teammates – past and present – who filed through the doors of the hospital, some to give rallying words of encouragement, others to say a final goodbye.

And then, when his mate slipped away, it was him who read the family’s statement to the assembled media.

He read the words through tear-filled eyes, as he did yesterday when he presented his eulogy at the funeral service in Hughes’ hometown of Macksville.

Throughout the tragic weeklong affair Clarke was a constant.

Over the years many have had their reservations about him as a man.

He was one of the new breed when he arrived on the international scene, a Gen-Y youngster adorned with an ear ring and tattoos.

Much was made of his relationship with model Lara Bingle.

The couple attracted the interest of the paparazzi in the manner of the Beckhams.

Ahead of his ascension to the national captaincy there was the story of him getting into a physical altercation with team mate Simon Katich in the dressing room following an SCG Test.

Many questioned Clarke’s commitment to the team as a result of the fracas.

As skipper there were allegations directed towards him with respect to the end of Michael Hussey’s career.

On the field there has been no denying his ability.

While some buckle under the burden of captaincy, Clarke flourished.

He started in a blaze of glory with a triple century, three double centuries and three hundreds in his first 17 Tests at the helm.

It was truly a case of leading by example.

Even with his lean run of late – although he did make a match-defining unbeaten 161 just three Tests ago in Cape Town – he has averaged 56.2 during his 39 Tests in charge.

When he took over the captaincy he was averaging 47.0.

In his recent autobiography Sachin Tendulkar lauded Clarke’s on-field leadership with the Little Master rating him more highly as a skipper than the two previous men who held the role – Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh.

Many have compared Clarke to Mark Taylor with respect to his ability to often be a step ahead of the game.

Of late his degenerative back condition has caused him pause.

Having successfully navigated his way – with significant input from doctors and physios – through 96 consecutive Tests following his debut in 2005 things have been far more problematic over the past 18 months.

One wonders what impact his ongoing back-related issues will have on his career from here on.

You also have to ponder what affect the heartache and tragedy of the past week that will have on Clarke with respect to his immediate future.

No doubt he would dearly love to lead his men in next week’s series opener against India at Adelaide but as late as yesterday the scars associated with his mate’s death still appeared raw and extremely debilitating.

Time will tell if he can recover sufficiently emotionally and mentally to play in what will be the most difficult match that a group of Australian cricketers have faced.

Thirty years ago when Kim Hughes tearfully resigned the national captaincy he was laughed at in some sections for displaying such emotion.

This past week the current captain’s tears have been shed for a far different reason.

Clarke has lost a man whom he referred to as his “brother”.

Such a loss would floor most men especially given the nature of his passing.

However when he picks himself up off the canvas and re-enters the fray he will do so no doubt having won over some of his detractors.

Perhaps his interactions with his subordinates may mellow as a result of what he has been through.

Time alone will tell.

But one thing is for sure, Michael Clarke has displayed outstanding leadership and reminded us all of the value of mateship over the past week.

And, as a result, we should all doff our cap in his direction.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 4 December 2014

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