Michael John Clarke
April 02, 1981, Liverpool, New South Wales
Right hand bat
Slow left arm orthodox
Middle order batter
A batsman of great talent and enormous ambition, Michael Clarke emerged in Australia's golden years, was with them through the troughs that followed, and eventually led them back to the No.1 Test ranking. At his peak Clarke was ranked the best Test batsman in the world, testament not only to his skill but his hard work in overcoming a chronic back injury that caused him progressively more trouble as his career advanced. Also an intuitive, aggressive captain, Clarke took over from Ricky Ponting in 2011 and while the team did not always run harmoniously during his tenure, he was at the helm for an Ashes whitewash in 2013-14 and a World Cup triumph in 2015. His retirement came at the end of a lost Ashes campaign in England in 2015, but he could be satisfied with a career punctuated by fine achievements.
As a young man Clarke could do anything with the bat, but he matured into one of the game's most professional, reliable and focussed players. A year into his Test career he learnt that he had to shed the flourishes that made him a golden child in order to shine consistently at elite level. Breathtaking centuries on debut away and at home stamped him as a shot-maker to savour, but his method in later years was to find gaps by caressing the ball along the ground. In the field his throw was as fast and accurate as anything in the game, and he could winkle out batsmen with his disarming left-arm spin.
Mostly he became known for his immaculate driving and slicing of the ball through impossible angles. His peak year was 2012, which brought 1595 runs at 106.33 and stamped him as the most in-form batsman in the world. The year began with a monumental 329 not out against India at the SCG and continued with 210 in Adelaide, where he joined Wally Hammond and Don Bradman as the only men to score a triple-century and a double-hundred in the same series. Later in the year came back-to-back double-centuries against South Africa in Brisbane and Adelaide. There seemed little he could not do.
But the team harmony disintegrated on the tour of India that followed in 2013, when Clarke and coach Mickey Arthur suspended four players in what became known as the homework saga. The Ashes series in England was then lost, but Clarke's Australians regained the urn with a 5-0 clean sweep in Australia at the end of the year. Clarke's gutsy century in Cape Town in 2014, completed with a broken shoulder thanks to a bouncer barrage from Morne Morkel, led to Australia's return to No.1, if only temporarily. Later in the year a statesmanlike Clarke led the country in mourning the death of his close friend Phillip Hughes, and an emotional century in Adelaide followed in what Clarke called the most important match of his career.
Although Clarke's ability and dedication could never be questioned, he nevertheless struggled at times to win over sections of the public, due in part to his A-list celebrity status, large endorsements and high-profile private life. There were occasions when he was booed in his own country, and at times he was accused of being too aloof around the team environment. But whatever his off-field status, Clarke will be remembered as a batsman of class and a captain who took the game on, and emerged with an enviable record in both spheres.
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