New Zealand v Australia, 1st Test, Wellington March 16, 2010

Australia want book closed on Clarke saga


The Clarke Distraction. It sounds like the title of a Robert Ludlum thriller, but the Australians want the abridged version. They are keen to skip forward to the final chapter and put behind them the drama and plot twists surrounding their vice-captain's very public break-up with his fiancée Lara Bingle.

They have three days to prepare for the first Test against New Zealand and on Tuesday trained for the first time since Michael Clarke rejoined the squad. The coach Tim Nielsen said the players would sit down during the day to discuss the best way to overcome the disruption to their preparation that the Clarke-Bingle media buzz has created.

"We'll have a chat about it all," Nielsen said. "There's no real effect. They're professional sportsmen. He's a player going through a personal issue like players tend to any day of the week. It's just that we happen to do it in a public forum, pretty much. We're all supporting him and he's comfortable where he's at. We're looking forward to getting into the cricket and getting back to what we do best.

"It's just one of the things we deal with every day. It's the hard part about living on the road. It's the hard part about living a life that's quite public. But we take that, we understand what we're doing. Our challenge today is to make sure we're all on the same page with the cricket starting on Friday and we prepare as well as we can for that game. We'll deal with the distractions and move forward."

Such has been the media frenzy surrounding the break-up in Australia that one TV network sent a reporter and cameraman on Clarke's flight from Sydney to Wellington in an attempt to get an exclusive interview. The Australian media contingent following the team has swelled significantly over the past few days and almost every question asked of players and coaches relates to Clarke.

The Australian team will be looking forward to Friday, when the focus returns to the action on the field. The New Zealand fans are certain to give Clarke a verbal barrage when he jogs on to the Basin Reserve but the fast bowler Chris Martin hopes the sledging doesn't come from any of the New Zealand players.

"He treats people he plays against with respect and that should be the way he gets treated as well," Martin said of Clarke. "That's pretty much how it works. The fans will probably have a ball but that's nothing to do with us. I know that I've stood on a few boundaries in Australia and been ripped to shreds so it's nothing new on either side of the Tasman and it's actually something that's quite humorous.

"It's very tabloid. I suppose cricket maybe in the '80s when Botham and Richards and those guys were floating around, it may have been a bit more tabloidy, but I haven't seen it since then. I think the tabloids may have even had a separate crew for Botham that followed him around, so I hope Michael doesn't have to deal with that."

Perhaps Martin forgot about a certain blond legspinner who often made headlines. Shane Warne was the classic example of a player who was able to compartmentalise his life; no matter what personal issues he had going on and regardless of how much negative press he received, Warne was always able to set those problems aside and perform on the field.

That is the challenge for Clarke over the next couple of weeks. If he steps out on Friday and bats with the class and poise that brought him 959 runs at 56.41 over the past year, some of the scrutiny will blow over with the Wellington breeze. Nielsen is confident that with the support of his team-mates, Clarke can do that.

"The players who do it the longest and are the most successful, they do it the best," Nielsen said. "That's the nature of the beast. That's why Michael has played 60 Test matches and performed so well. You've got the likes of Ponting and Katich and Hussey who have played a huge amount of Test match cricket and I'm sure they will be a huge support for him. The rest of the group will help him out as well."

But for now, there could be a few chapters of the Clarke saga yet to be written.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Malcolm on March 19, 2010, 15:08 GMT

    The Aussie media makes me feel sick with so much coverage to Clarke's personal life. The man needs to be left alone to fight his inner demons right now. If he comes through and performs well on the field, he can certainly feel proud of himself. As for the Kiwi supporters, I have a high opinion of them in general and they should not taunt Clarke. Giving a man a hard time about an off-the-field break-up is, in my estimation, hitting below the belt. Men and women of honour shouldn't do that.

    And for the record, I am NOT an Aussie. But kicking a man when he is down is not what my parents taught me.Hope for a good series and may TRUTH ALWAYS PREVAIL!

  • Vama on March 17, 2010, 12:50 GMT

    clarke...just do well..i and probably all ur fans will wish that you hit many runs..and win the match

  • Christina on March 17, 2010, 7:47 GMT

    I just joined Cricinfo and didn't realize how entertaining the banter over here is! Zeus00 I am an Aussie girl, residing in Melbourne, and I think you've labelled the sydney accent quite appropriately! Sorry mdsmedia, just being honest. And if any Aussie cricketer ever made fun of the tragic death of Chris Cairns's baby sister, its absolutely distasteful and despicable. Its going to be hard to stop us in the cricket though, particularly with all the new fast bowlers coming of age.

  • Rebecca on March 17, 2010, 7:19 GMT

    To msmedia, I am an english woman who supports NZ and India at the cricket, because they are fun and smile so much more than the Kangaroo cricketers!. The Aussie cricket team should snap out of their constipated sense of self-importance, so people can actually like them a little more! Your comment proves that you cant take a joke, which is quite tragic!Once again, well said ZEUS00, keep them coming!

  • Dummy4 on March 17, 2010, 2:54 GMT

    Well, he has pretty much got over it, I think.

  • Leo on March 17, 2010, 0:36 GMT

    Haha, I think its HI-larious that the Aussies want to avoid Pup getting some sledging. This is the same team who, after Chris Cairns sister was killed in a train accident, were quietly chanting "choo choo" as Cairnsy came in to bat! All of a sudden they want sensibility. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, depending on your view, they will probably get it. NZers, in general, are much more mannerly and thoughtful than our trans-Tasmanian cousins. I wonder how the Aussies would react if the boot was on the other foot.

    Whatever, I hope its a great test series, and Go the Black Caps!!!!

  • Michael on March 16, 2010, 23:26 GMT

    ZEUS00, I'm not sure what are trying to get at with that attempt at typing an Aussie accent, but it made YOU look silly. As for humbling the Aussies, have you been alive long enough to have seen it happen?

    BondShaneBond, seems you don't believe what Mr Martin says and only what you like to believe. "He treats other players with respect and that's the way he'll be treated by the NZ players". Seems it's not the players who will stoop to your level, but just the supporters.

  • Ishan on March 16, 2010, 19:01 GMT

    These are the tours that should be scheduled

    I would like test matches between these sides


    New Zealand Tour India Pak NZ Ind Tri Series India Tour South Africa India Tour England - 4 Tests West Indies Tour South Africa South Africa Tour West Indies Sri Lanka Tour England Australia Tour England Australia Tour Sri Lanka South Africa Tour Sri Lanka West Indies Tour India

    Pakistan Tour India - 4 Tests India Tour West Indies New Zealand Tour West Indies New Zealand Tour South Africa South Africa Tour New Zealand

  • Dummy4 on March 16, 2010, 17:37 GMT

    Well, I think that it may take time for Clarke to get over this. But, I think he'll be fine after a month or two, the situation will surely subside after sometime. I don't know how he'll play against New Zealand, but I think he may take this as a point to prove to everyone that he can be at his professional best, even when life gets tough on the personal front!! I personally want New Zealand to challenge Australia in the Test Series, but I want to see Clarke rise above his personal situation and play reasonably good cricket...I am confident he will!!

  • vic tor on March 16, 2010, 14:33 GMT

    It seems like a joke when Martin says that he hopes the Kiwi players will leave Clarke alone.......I personally don't think that will happen...It may happen as long as Clarke is dismissed cheaply...if he gets stuck in, then all hell will break loose, and Clarke will get the works. I am absolutely positive that had the roles been reversed, Australian players(or some of them ) would certainly have used this to their advantage, and more so if the player involved was of the status of Clarke. Having said all this, I feel sorry for the guy, because he has gone through hell these past few days, and I sincerely hope he manages to pull through. If he is successful, he will prove to one and all, that he is a genuine successor to Ponting. I wish him well.

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