Australia’s humiliating Ashes loss was bound to have repercussions.
The victim is Michael Clarke.
His decision to retire after the Oval Test isn’t a huge surprise; he has been struggling with injury, form and the death of mate Phillip Hughes. After the third Test loss, Clarke blamed himself for Australia’s poor form.
In an interview with Channel Nine commentator Shane Warne after the fourth Test (which Australia lost by an innings and 78 runs), Clarke said he’d made his decision last night. Candid talks with Rod Marsh before play confirmed suspicions.
It’s heartening that Clarke has afforded himself a farewell Test. Cricket can be unforgiving, and many great players don’t get a fitting ending.
The time is right. Australia has a two Test series at Bangladesh in October, before a home summer against New Zealand and the West Indies, a perfect time for Steve Smith to rebuild. Shane Watson, Brad Haddin and Adam Voges have probably played their last Test. Chris Rogers’ strong recent form will buy him some time. Hopefully promising leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed will partner Nathan Lyon at some stage.
Despite this poor Ashes series, Clarke will leave a strong legacy. He burst on the scene in 2004, with peroxide blonde hair and big runs. Dramas with then-girlfriend Lara Bingle didn’t endear him with the public, but inheriting the captaincy from Ricky Ponting helped. He was booed in his first Test as captain in 2010-11, but one year later he’d amassed 329 against India. Clarke’s maturity – especially after Hughes’ death – endeared him to fans. While he never won in England, he captained Australia to an Ashes whitewash in 2013/14 and won the World Cup earlier this year.
It’s highly likely Clarke will join Warne in the Nine commentary box. He was a guest commentator during the India series and impressed.
So let’s enjoy Clarke’s Oval farewell and look forward to the future.