Daniel Brettig
Assistant editor, ESPNcricinfo

Big Bash League

Clarke makes priorities clear by skipping BBL

By steering away from the BBL, Michael Clarke is making a definitive statement about what he values most

Daniel Brettig

July 22, 2011

Comments: 14 | Text size: A | A

Michael Clarke was positive from the moment he came to the crease, Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 4th day, January 6, 2011
Michael Clarke's motives are driven by the team he now captains © Getty Images

Michael Clarke is the playing captain of the Australian cricket team. He is not the corporate captain of Cricket Australia. This distinction has been made refreshingly clear by Clarke's decision to stay out of the inaugural edition of the Big Bash League.

His absence from the roster of domestic Twenty20 players is in some ways no great surprise. Having retired from international T20 cricket and never deigned to participate in the Indian Premier League, Clarke has distanced himself from the format. Nor has he ever played a T20 match for New South Wales.

Perhaps because of this gap in Clarke's resume, he was one of the format's weaker exponents when representing Australia at it, generating unkind comparisons with the England captain Mike Brearley during last year's World Twenty20 tournament in the Caribbean.

However, the prospect of Clarke missing an event that CA is bolstering with all the spare cash it can muster is a most significant divergence from the company line. It demonstrates that while CA is doing all it can to grow the game in Australia, and thus the revenue that can be generated from it, Clarke has resolved to devote himself to the task of rejuvenating the Test team. He must make the results of the Australian side his No. 1 priority, even if plenty of office bearers, marketing and managerial figures presently do not.

Last year Clarke explained his position on T20 tournaments when questioned about the episode that saw Mike Hussey and Doug Bollinger inadequately prepared for a Test series in India. He said that players had choices, and his was to do all he could to perform at his best for the national side. Still Ricky Ponting's deputy at the time, Clarke had seldom made a more pointed statement.

"For me, we all have a choice," he said. "You don't have to play IPL. You don't have to play Champions League. For me, personally, right now it is about representing my country, and every game I can play for Australia, I will do that. That's my priority. If, as an individual player, you are tired or your body needs some rest, you need to make that commitment outside of international cricket. You need to, maybe, play less in the IPL or play less in the Champions League."

To this end, Clarke is going to need a break during the brief window between home Test series against New Zealand and India, preceded as they are by tours of Sri Lanka and South Africa. Like his vice-captain, Shane Watson, Clarke needs daily physio to manage his body, the better to stop his problematic back from seizing up at the wrong times. That it did so during Australia's practice fixture against a Queensland XI at the Centre of Excellence during a recent training camp must have given him cause for thought.

Mitchell Johnson, the other CA-contracted player to have excused himself from the BBL, is in a similar position. Though his body is fundamentally sound, his bowling action, and at times his state of mind, need careful management to ensure he is capable of delivering the odd fierce spell that maintains his value to the Australian team. Johnson was roundly applauded by the public for his stance, but there were state associations willing to criticise it in private. The imperative for each state to have marketable names with which to sell their new teams has been at the centre of the debate.

Clarke is about to enter the most defining phase of his career, and no amount of success in the BBL will have been worthwhile if it is deemed to have detracted for one moment from the captaincy of the Test side

Lengthy negotiations, and plenty of tough conversations, were had before Clarke's manager, Chris White, informed CA that the captain would not take part in the BBL. That the Australian captain needed to endure that kind of pressure said rather too much about how the game and its administration has changed in recent times. But Clarke's conclusion that ultimately it would do him little good to be involved in season one showed sound appreciation of his place. He is about to enter the most defining phase of his career, and no amount of success in the BBL will have been worthwhile if it is deemed to have detracted for one moment from the captaincy of the Test side.

One of Clarke's lieutenants, the wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, has made note of the fact that Australia's players cannot keep doing the same things and expect improved results. One of those things has been to divert attention across three formats, to the apparent detriment of the Test team's results and development. The great teams of the past 15 years were more capable of taking that liberty. This one is not. Their pathway back to success will require unity of purpose, discipline and rigour, not the glitz and wild bat swings of the T20 circuit.

By steering away from the BBL, Clarke is making a definitive statement about what he values most. While momentarily miffed that the captain is deserting their buzz project, CA may eventually be grateful that his priorities were clearer than theirs.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by hyclass on (July 24, 2011, 1:07 GMT)

@Raghav Karthik...i appreciate the point that youre making with regard to BBL harming players techniques for the longer form of the game.I also agree that remuneration is entirely disproportionate to effort and discouraging to those who play the longer formats.However,since when does Phillip Hughes have a problem with swing bowling?There has never been any suggestion of it.His only batting flaw,was an instruction from the australian coach,prior to the 2009 Ashes warm up games against Harmison,to play more defensively,particularly against the short ball.If you question it,watch the Youtube vidoes of Hughes 115 and 160 vs Sth Africa,before those instructions were given and see for yourself.Also,D'Costa mentioned it in an ESPN interview last month.Hughes had 5 centuries in 5 games leading into the Ashes warm up and it must be clear that Harmison isnt in the same league as Steyn or the 1100 test wicket attack that Hughes faced.I fully support Clarkes decision,whatever his reasons may be.

Posted by   on (July 23, 2011, 17:08 GMT)

Appreciate Clarke's decision.As an Indian I have started hating this IPL for ruining players like RP Singh n M Vijay.Now this BBL is one trash.Mitch Marsh isn't going to become like Kallis by playing this slam bang stuff.What he needs is a 1000 run 25 wkt Shield season.Dave Warner is going to be further stereotyped as a T20 player.Shaun Marsh needs runs in the Shield to get the test opener,not play BBL.Steve Smith won't improve his legspin with BBL.Phil Hughes won't solve his weakness against swing bowling.Young Oz quicks like Starc need lot of overs in Shield Cricket to strengthen their legs,not BBL.And paying BBL players 4 times more than Shield Players is stupidAppreciate Clarke's decision.As an Indian I have started hating this IPL for ruining players like RP Singh n M Vijay.Now this BBL is one trash.Mitch Marsh isn't going to become like Kallis by playing this slam bang stuff.What he needs is a 1000 run 25 wkt Shield season.Dave Warner is going to be further stereotyped as a T20 p

Posted by Winsome on (July 23, 2011, 11:06 GMT)

Spot on Twitter, the whole Clarke/MJ missing the BBL story is such a beat-up, I can't believe it's being seen as somehow heroic by either of them.

Posted by Salim_123 on (July 23, 2011, 7:01 GMT)

Werll done Clarke and Mitch. Are you listening Dougie and Hussey and co. Both the India series and world cup were played badly due to exhaustion by key players who jump at money first then country. Shame on you. Hughes, Khwaja and the young upcoming bowlers please do justice to your country first.

Posted by joel4uonly on (July 23, 2011, 6:22 GMT)

hmmm. clarke is unfit to play limited overs game.... its just a show off from clarke...

Posted by jonesy2 on (July 23, 2011, 5:37 GMT)

yeah this is great that clarkey is doing this but it makes no difference if the other test stars are playing. there needs to be some direction and consistency.

Posted by   on (July 23, 2011, 5:22 GMT)

Annoying thing is though that Clarke doesn't belong in the test team. That photo of him is about the only decent shot he played in the last ashes series. He's a good player of bad bowling but once the ball swings two milimetres he folds up like a piece of wet cardboard. Get him out, Get Hussey back up to number 4 and Kawaja in at five.

Posted by   on (July 23, 2011, 5:13 GMT)

Haha lolworthy journalism here. Clearly missing the most important quote by Clarke "I am also only available for one BBL game this year, and that was a consideration as well.".... which appeared in all other newspaper accounts of this. Has Mr. Brettig become media spinner for pup?

Posted by popcorn on (July 23, 2011, 2:34 GMT)

How I wish Cricket Australia could be as CLEAR-HEADED as Michael Clarke,Ricky Ponting and Mitchell Johnson, who are the ONLY THREE Australian cricketers who are focussed on getting Australia back to their Number One position in test Cricket?

Posted by alexbraae on (July 23, 2011, 0:24 GMT)

Recent bits of news are really coming together to show the strength of test cricket, such as this, Mitchell's decision, the announcement of a test championship and 5 sold out days at Lords. Long may it continue.

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Daniel BrettigClose
Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.

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