Former captain Michael Clarke has claimed that the Australian cricket team need to focus less on being liked and more on winning. His comments come in the wake of the widely publicised Longstaff Review, which accused the team of having a culture “of winning without counting the cost”.
Clarke made his statement in the lead up to a tough home series against India, which is balanced on a knife edge. India, led by firebrand Virat Kohli, have never been a side to back down from a challenge, and have shown no inclination to follow Australia’s (enforced) example of prioritising sportsmanship over success.
The controversial comments from the former captain, which seemed a bit tone-deaf coming after the ball tampering scandal that claimed his successor’s scalp earlier this year, drew a biting response from broadcaster Gerard Whateley, who pointed out that Clarke had presided over much of the development of the culture leading up to “sandpapergate”.
Whateley also accused Clarke of being cricket’s version of a climate-change denier for claiming that a culture that prioritises winning did not contribute to cheating. Yesterday’s hero’s response was savage: Clarke accused Whateley (in a tweet where he misspelled the broadcaster’s name) of being a “headline chasing coward” and suggested his opinion is irrelevant because he was never “talented enough or courageous enough” to play international cricket.
It is unclear how much courage Clarke thinks it takes to be paid millions of dollars a year to play sport and then retire straight into numerous very well paid commentating gigs – although he did run the risk of being strangled by Simon Katich, so maybe being an Aussie cricketer takes more bravery than just being able to threaten opposition tail-enders with broken arms.
Katich (who would probably take the opposite side if Clarke claimed the sky was blue) came to Whateley’s defence, arguing that Clarke has completely missed the point (which he arguably has). Whateley also got another shot in, stating that when the cultural review talked about men’s cricketers living in a gilded bubble they could have just used a photo of Clarke.
The upcoming series against India will test Tim Paine’s men’s resolve to keep playing in a respectful spirit, with India’s players and fans renowned for being far from shrinking violets. However, as long as they can channel their aggression into batting, bowling and fielding rather than sledging and sneaking sandpaper onto the field, Australia will be proud of their team.