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Clarke launches his own academy

Brydon Coverdale

July 31, 2014

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Michael Clarke speaks to reporters on his return to Sydney, March 7, 2014
"I believe the playing part is about 40% of what goes with being an international sportsman these days," Michael Clarke says © AFP
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Michael Clarke's short-term goals were made clear this week: regain the No.1 Test ranking after South Africa claimed it back on Monday. His long-term aims are somewhat more grandiose: help Australian cricket move in the right direction "for the next 10, 20, 30 or 40 years". "I might not be able to help that at all," he says, "but if I can, I'm going to try."

That is thinking behind the Michael Clarke Cricket Academy, which Australia's captain launched in Sydney on Thursday. He describes the concept as "a finishing school for young cricketers". Yes, they will train like Clarke, following his own personal regime during a five-day camp. Yes, there will be coaches to help them with their on-field skills.

But Clarke wants his academy to provide more than that for the 13- to 18-year-olds likely to form most of the intake. The high standards that Clarke the captain sets within the Australian setup will translate to the academy.

"There's a lot that I had no idea about when I walked onto the Australian stage," Clarke said at the launch in Sydney. "To this day I've never had media training. I was fortunate I went to a school where I had to wear a tie, so I had to learn how to put a tie on, but there's guys in the current Australian team that don't know how to do a tie up.

"I believe the playing part is about 40% of what goes with being an international sportsman these days. I think there's a lot of stuff from the outside world, media training, speaking in front of people, presenting yourself in the right way, understanding and accepting that if you're lucky enough to play international sport you are a role model.

"Whether you like it or not, if there's one boy or girl who looks up to you, then you're a role model. I think if you can learn that from a young age, you're in a much better place than getting there and thinking, oh my god, is this what comes with it."

Notably, the values listed on the academy's website include the line that "negative attitudes are banned", and that "if you're not exhausted both physically and mentally at the end of each day … you're doing it wrong and we will call you on it". The standards at Clarke's academy, as they were in Clarke's team during the "homework" saga in India last year, will be high.

"I wish I'd had that guidance at a young age, to open my eyes to it," Clarke said. "I guess probably after being dropped [from the Test team] I realised that a big part of why I got dropped was because my priorities changed. My preparation was no longer my No.1 priority.

"A big part of this is hopefully trying to help these kids learn from my experiences. Hopefully they don't make the same mistakes. Hopefully they can see things earlier and clearer than what I did."

Although Clarke's ultimate goal is to build an academy facility at Berrima in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, for the time being his academy will run from Sydney, with the first five-day live-in camp beginning in late September.

The aim is to run four camps per year in Sydney during school holiday periods, with coaches including Clarke's father Les, former Test spinner Beau Casson, and former Australia women's captain Lisa Sthalekar. Clarke's own availability will depend on his international commitments. His immediate Test priority is leading Australia to victory against Pakistan in the UAE, which could help his men move back towards the top of the Test table.

"We always knew when we became No.1 in the world, we knew it was so close that there was an opportunity when South Africa played before us and they won that it could go back to them," Clarke said. "I think it's probably a really good sign of where Test cricket is at. A lot of teams are so close to each other and you have to play your best at every opportunity.

"We've got some tough cricket ahead of us in all formats. That's the way it goes. I'm really excited that we were able to get to No.1. I guess what it does do is it clears our goal up very much so - we want to be the No.1 team in the world."

They are the kind of goals - getting the best out of the team and each individual in it - that Clarke wants to instil in his academy students.

"I want both boys and girls to be able to walk out of there and say 'I've learnt a lot about trying to become a better person and a better cricketer'," he said. "There's certainly no guarantees that everybody who goes to the academy is going to go on and play at the highest level, but if we can get the best out of them individually, we've had an impact."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

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Posted by   on (August 3, 2014, 7:38 GMT)

I hope it's for batsmen and spinners only. Too many young quicks break down because they are physically not ready. Ideally, no quick should be 'going for it' until 21 and even then, with care. Coaches at all levels need to nurse their youn fast guys - hold them back - not encourage them to bowl fast. It's short time coaching. Need to take the longer view. First class debut at 25 still leaves 8-10 years at the top. Debut at 18 and you risk breaking down and a short, injury ridden career. Thinking and coaching has to change.

Posted by scarab666 on (August 1, 2014, 11:05 GMT)

This is a joke surely……..we don't need another cricket academy. Australian cricket at all levels has declined over the years and this decline just happens to coincide with our obsession on academies and the 'emerging junior' rep sides. Bob Simpson put it so well when he said at the end of your junior career, if your good enough, you start playing grade at 15 and work your way up the grades. Academies can't teach you the invaluable knowledge that a grade veteran can.

Posted by   on (August 1, 2014, 8:43 GMT)

Ties are important ;-)

Posted by SirBobJones on (August 1, 2014, 0:30 GMT)

Berrima is a really nice area.

Posted by dunger.bob on (July 31, 2014, 9:34 GMT)

Sort of a cricket/business college deal. I guess it's a good idea as it wouldn't surprise me if quite a few cricketers have been overwhelmed by the extra curricular stuff to the point where it's affected their on-field performance. Clarke is one such as he openly admits here. At one time he was putting more energy into his media/public commitments than his cricket. As a result he was dropped and Australia were without the services of a very, very good batsman. .. if he can help the next-gen to avoid that, it's worth doing imo.

Posted by   on (July 31, 2014, 9:05 GMT)

Clarke seems like the kind of guy who needs a break from all cricket... he seems too full on involved with it, and it's just a game. Hope the academy is a success, though.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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