Australia v England, 5th ODI, Brisbane January 30, 2011

Clarke deserves some goodwill

Michael Clarke is no prima donna leader, but large chunks of the Australian cricket public still haven't warmed to him

The fifth ODI was dedicated to charity but there wasn't much given to the captain Michael Clarke. For so long the anointed leader, Clarke is out of form as well as being out of favour in large sections of Australia.

Of course big parts of the country quite like him, but boos usually find a way to drown out the cheers, as Clarke discovered when he walked out to bat at the Gabba this afternoon. Jeering the leader has been a popular past-time this summer, whether it was the England fans targeting Ricky Ponting during the first four Tests, or the locals showing displeasure at Clarke's elevation when the incumbent was injured.

Pockets jangled with coins headed for the collectors' buckets, raising money for the Queensland flood victims, but there was only sympathy for Clarke after he was welcomed with boos. After that most supporters clapped him extra hard when he hit three boundaries in his first 13 deliveries, and later brought up his first one-day half-century since the game here against Sri Lanka in November.

He was also applauded loudly, with some standing in acknowledgment, as he left with 54 off 74 deliveries, an innings which became the high point of Australia's 248. A handful of angry radio listeners texted apologies to Clarke for the behaviour of the people in the stands, especially on a day throbbing with community spirit.

It probably happened to Mark Taylor in 1996-97 - although most of his most famous slump occurred overseas - and Greg Chappell can't have been popular during his duck run in the early 1980s, but turning on the leader is a rare event in Australia. Booing the opposition is standard, as Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen re-discovered tonight, but Clarke is a victim of the displeasure in the early stages of his captaincy.

"Obviously you'd like people to be cheering but I can understand why a few of them were booing," Clarke said. "I've had a lot of support throughout this time, I haven't performed as well as I'd like, so I don't blame the public for being disappointed with my performances. It was nice to finally contribute and help the boys get a win. It was a great feeling."

All the unwanted attention is extra strange because his team is doing so well. Under Clarke the side has moved on quickly from the Ashes defeat and the 51-run success gave Australia a 4-1 lead, sealing the series with two games remaining.

The best way for him to win the adoration is to score fluent runs, but that has become increasingly difficult over a summer without much love. What he has shown is his dedication to exiting his slump, even if it is not paying off yet.

He has given up the associated riches of Twenty20 by retiring from the international format to focus on Tests and ODIs. This week he was so desperate for a decent bat that he suggested to the Australian hierarchy that he turn out for his Sydney club side. The request was rejected. Those two actions are not the behaviour of a prima donna leader, but a man who wants to excel for himself and his country.

As a person Clarke can be generous. The day before this game he walked on to the Gabba with a group of under-9s from a Brisbane club side to spend time with them, just like he did on Friday with school children affected by the floods. Part of it was his job, but there is more to him than professional duty.

Like all of his team-mates, he donated his entire match fee to the flood appeal. "It was a no-brainer for the boys," Clarke said. "Everyone is doing that and the boys are signing a shirt as well.

"It's great to see so many people in this country be willing to put their hand in their pockets for such a wonderful cause. A lot of people have been devastated by what's happened and the least we can do is donate a bit of our money and our time. That's a reason why it's even more special tonight to get a victory. It's great we've won the series."

By the end of the game the tally from Cricket Australia and its supporters had reached approximately A$6million, a phenomenal amount of financial support. Over the next week, before the team leaves for the World Cup, Clarke deserves some goodwill too.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Alex on February 1, 2011, 22:46 GMT

    It's so much Clarke as a person that seems to be the problem. It's more Clarke as a Captain. Plus, Queenslanders respect Ricky Ponting, he's proven he deserves the respect a captain deserves. Clarke being handed it on a silver platter in the middle of a form dslump looks bad more than anything. Still, booing your own players is pretty poor form.

  • Hassan on February 1, 2011, 13:57 GMT

    All the greats have had some kind of slump in their cricketing careers. Clarkey is going through his and soon he will get out of it. The important thing is that Australian cricket has found in Clarke another great leader who can take the sport to new levels. Hussey has been tried and found lacking. Watson is too young and I believe won't be able to handle the entanglements of captaincy. Bottom line is that runs will eventually come, but possessing an awesome cricketing brain with great leadership qualities is the domain of very few.

  • John on February 1, 2011, 11:15 GMT

    To be honest, I think the reason for Clarke's lack of popularity is simply an extension of his lack of form. - He represents what has gone wrong for Aus cricket over the past 6 months or so. i.e. Selectors sticking with out of form players over a long period of time. - The problem is, Clarke is a proven performer who deserves his spot in the side. (Certainly the test side, still not 100% convinced about his ODI spot). The issue was that the selectors were sticking with players who were obviously not quite up to test standard (North, arguably Haddin, etc.). Now that they are gone, people still want those lacking form to be dropped, but Clarke is too good a player to be dropped because of one form slump. Anyway, once he starts making runs again, the public will fall back in love with him quickly enough. - Just look at Watto, he used to be nearly everyone's biggest peeve. "Looks like tarzan plays like Jane" etc. Now he is the absolute golden boy, and deservedly so.

  • Andrew on January 31, 2011, 23:59 GMT

    @Hayden Brennan - I know there is a alot of dislike for Clarke - but to say most fans want him gone is incorrect if you include fans who are not old enough to be blogging here. I am talking about kids between 6 & 18 yrs of age. WHy - because he is very generous with his time & does alot with coaching & signing autographs (they all do - but he does more than most), despite being booed he was one of the last to stop signing autographs at the GABBA the other night. Most people who I've spoken to who have said they dislike Clarke can't put forward a reason. He is probably the most highest profile cricketer of the X-Box generation & so he probably annoys some stick in the muds.

  • Jason on January 31, 2011, 23:27 GMT

    I never have, nor ever will boo the captain of the Australian cricket team. Neither would i ever go visit another country and boo their captain on THEIR turf. Call me old school but when play I still call the umpires "Sir" and accept bad decisions on the chin. I fear I am one of the dying breed. PS. Go Clarke there are plenty of Aust discerning cricket fans who appreciate what you're doing! Form is temporary, class is permenant!

  • David on January 31, 2011, 19:57 GMT

    gilly4ever only represents victorians. he does not represent australian fans as a whole. whenever he makes a suggestion, coincidently it is a victorian that should come into the side.

  • Robert on January 31, 2011, 11:13 GMT

    Booing anybody, supported or not is just plain offensive. Surely you can think of something better to say than boo. @Gilly4ever. Time to deal with the facts. Clarke is here to stay and deservedly so. Hodge is done with. Your CD is skipping buddy. I am over hearing the same story. I am sure others feel the same way.

  • John on January 31, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    @popcorn, any comments regarding Steve Smith now? ;) Clarke has actually been very impressive captaincy-wise. People saying that he is a poor captain obviously haven't been paying too much attention!

  • Dummy4 on January 31, 2011, 10:06 GMT

    @Thevas Yes Matthew Hayden ended his form slump with a ton in the final ashes test, but do you really remember what happened? he batted for 3 days, and constantly walked off the field by accepting the bad light rule! Australia ran out of time and consiquently lost the ashes! He effectively sacrificed the ashes for a chance at individual longetivity! Gilly4ever is right the majority of fans want Michael Clarke out!

  • Dummy4 on January 31, 2011, 9:55 GMT

    Australian fans aren't very knowledgeable about aspects of cricket such as form slump. If we relied on fans to select teams, it'd be a team of 18-20 year olds because everyone is obsessed with 'blooding' new players. Michael Clarke, and 29, is in the very middle of his career, and I daresay he will go on to score 10 000 runs, and will probably retire with an average of around 50.

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