BEFORE Michael Clarke had even walked out to captain Australia for the first time, he threatened to quit from the role.
It was in the changing rooms at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It was 2008.
Clarke had temporarily been handed the captaincy for a Twenty20 International against India, back in the days when the Aussie side still saw T20 as little more than a bit of hit and giggle. The previous year, rugby league legend Andrew Johns had played for NSW in the Big Bash.
Yet Clarke wasn’t in the mood for stuffing around. It was his first chance to captain his country in a senior match, and he wanted to make his mark.
As Clarke points out in his new book, Michael Clarke: My Story, he certainly left an impression on the selection panel.
“Merv Hughes, who I like and respect enormously, was the selector on duty,” Clarke writes. “He walked into the changing room before the match with a piece of paper showing me the batting order and who was opening the bowler.
“‘What’s this?’ I said.
“‘This is the batting order and what the selectors want to see happen today.’
“‘Merv,’ I said, ‘ring Digger (then-head selector Andrew Hilditch) and tell him he’s got to find someone else to captain Australia.’
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“I tore Merv’s piece of paper up. This wasn’t the under-10s. I wasn’t walking onto the MCG with a piece of paper telling me what to do.
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Michael Clarke (R) with Merv Hughes (L).
Michael Clarke (R) with Merv Hughes (L).Source: News Limited
“Sure enough, Merv phoned Digger, who called me.
“‘Sorry about that, Michael’, he said, ‘You’re the captain, you make the calls, that sheet’s what we’re thinking, but it’s only a guide’.”
Throughout Clarke’s autobiography there are several tales of run-ins with selectors. He was one himself for several years, from the time he took on the Test captaincy in 2011 until he voluntarily stood down as a selector in 2013.
Clarke believes the head selector for most of his tenure as captain, John Inverarity, was never a fan of having a player on the selection panel. Clarke also didn’t appear to take too kindly to Inverarity’s mannerisms, which may have stemmed from the fact the former Western Australia all-rounder’s other job was as a school headmaster.
“In one of our first chats, John and I are in a hotel, and he’s sitting in the restaurant when I come in,” Clarke writes.
“‘Michael,’ he says, and indicates for me to sit in front of him.
“‘Hi John,’ I reply, but I remain standing. I think, it’s not going to work this way. I feel like the principal is telling me to sit in his office.
“…Whenever John tries to speak down to me, my fur stands up.”
Clarke (R) speaks with then-coach Mickey Arthur (L) and head selector John Inverarity (C).
Clarke (R) speaks with then-coach Mickey Arthur (L) and head selector John Inverarity (C).Source: News Limited
Clarke goes on to say that he got on very well with Hilditch and had a workable relationship with Inverarity, but it’s clear he’s still disappointed with how he was treated by the selection panel led by Rod Marsh during his injury dramas in 2014-15.
First, Clarke spoke out against the selection panel for resting Steve Smith during a one-day series in Zimbabwe. In that same series Clarke injured his hamstring, and then had some strong disagreements with Cricket Australia officials – Pat Howard specifically – about when he would be able to return to action.
That argument went quiet when Phillip Hughes was tragically killed in November 2014, but the tension returned in the lead-up to the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
“On 11 January, Rod Marsh calls me with some different news,” Clarke writes.
“’Michael, congratulations, you’ve been selected for the World Cup and you’re captain, but you have to be 100 per cent fit by the Bangladesh game on 21 February.’
“He’s implying that they’re doing me a favour by giving me one week’s grace after the tournament opener. The date he has given me is ten weeks after my surgery.
“But I’m stunned. ‘I beg your pardon? That’s two weeks earlier than Pat Howard told me last week.’
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“Rod is firm on it, so I call Alex (Kountouris, team physio). ‘We’ve only got until the Bangladesh game,’ I say.
“Mate, I don’t think you can do it,’ Alex says.
“‘I can do it,’ I say, quite angry now about the mixed messages.
“‘We’re preparing as if you’re not going to make it,’ Pat says.
“‘I’m going to prove you wrong,’ I snap.”
Clarke did end up making it, returning to action after the Bangladesh game was washed out and leading Australia to World Cup glory, scoring 74 in the final against New Zealand in what was his final limited-overs match for Australia.