When I moved back to Australia in May 2011, Michael Clarke was already on top. He was doing well on the cricket pitch (do I get bonus points for not calling it a field?), had been named captain of Australia’s Test and one-day cricket, and had rid himself of Lara Bingle and started dating Kyly Boldy. Good for him. But because I was late to the game, I had no idea that there was a time he was not-so-popular. In fact, to quote my boyfriend, “he was a goose, but now everybody just froths on him.” While I’m not sure about his past, I think it’s safe to say that he can no longer be compared to various livestock.
But what happened? How did he rocket to the top? Let me see if I can figure it out.
This is not rocket science, although some people still think it is. MALES’ ATHLETIC ABILITIES PEAK BETWEEN 24-28. Reread that, because I don’t want to talk about it again although, let’s face it, I probably will. People have known this for years. 26 seems to be the sweet spot for most people. I once went to a lecture given by the GM of the Boston Red Sox where he says that batters peak at 26. Pretty applicable to cricket, if you ask me. Of course, there are anomalies (and it occasionally depends on the sport) – LeBron James, Wayne Gretzky, Pele, Ryan Schlecker, and the majority of people who compete in the Olympics are a few names that come to mind. Clarke, at first, seemed to be one of these exceptions since he was dominating one-day cricket at 21.
But no one is perfect (not even Sir Don Bradman) and in 2005 he was screwing up and was dropped. He was 23 at the time and while I did say that he had been amazing at 21, he hadn’t hit his sweet spot yet – big number are great but reaching the ideal age also brings consistency. He just hadn’t gotten there yet. At least, that’s my explanation.
Then, in 2006, he started killing it once again. He was was called back to Test cricket, named captain of Twenty20, started breaking records and winning medals (he now has a casual 3 Allan Border medals, no big deal or anything). When did all this start happening? Oh, right, when he was 24. Shocking.
And how old was he when he was named Twenty20 captain? 25. Hmmm… interesting. How old when he was named the Australian Test captain? 26. Ahhh… what a coincidence. How old when he scored his personal best of 329? 31. Okay. That’s inconsistent. But you get the idea.
He got better because he got older, he had more practice and biology said so. This is not news.
When people say, “Behind every great man is a great woman,” they aren’t lying. This may not be a popular opinion… but I like Lara Bingle. I think she’s funny. If you check the timeline, Clarke did well while he was dating her (although that could have something to do with age, like I’ve already talked about). He even did well once they broke up – break ups are amazing motivation.
When he was running around with loads of ladies (you know who you are) he wasn’t doing as well. Again, this is not news: married men, or men in serious relationship, are more successful. This was true when he was dating Lara Bingle.
It’s even truer now that he’s married to Kyly Boldy. Partly because their married, which changes things, and partly because no one is texting nude photos of her to his mates. Having these steady relationships in his life has made him a better cricketer. At least I think so – and so does science.
One thing that Clarke had going against him was his age. Cricket is, at it’s core, a gentleman’s game and Michael Clarke and his Gen Y ways didn’t exactly fit in. He drove fast cars, said (aloud!) that he wanted to be respected and was… to put it lightly… a playboy.
He wasn’t classy like Bradman or ridiculous like Ponting… nor was he anything that Australia wanted from their captain (which, I have learned is the second most important job in the country). But here’s the thing about great players (and great people): they rise to the occasion. And Clarke did that. He put his team above himself and while he doesn’t always come off the pitch with century under his belt, he always inspires confidence in his team. People couldn’t see that aspect of his personality before his captaincy and once they did, they liked him more.
It hasn’t hurt that as he’s grown up, he’s also calmed down. He doesn’t need to be ostentatious like he was when he was 21 (I mean c’mon, is there anyone in the world more garish than a 21 year old man?) with the cars and women. When he was with Lara Bingle, he was constantly in the papers for scandals and this that and the other thing. No good. But then he had a nice, PRIVATE, courtship with Kyly Boldy and a nice, PRIVATE wedding – just like a respectable man would. Cricket fans are generally classy folk, so they don’t want their captain on the cover of OK! magazine. While it may not be fair, it does mean that people respect him more.
I wouldn’t be a woman if I didn’t acknowledge that he’s gotten better looking (that buzz cut was doing him NO favours). And better looking people get more respect/earn more money/are seen as nicer/better people. It’s just a fact.