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Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke

Wisden India logo Wisden India 19-08-2015 Kritika Naidu

Michael Clarke has always had a love-hate relationship with fans of the game and the media, especially back home, for one reason or the other. On the one hand, he was the boy with the diamond ear stud, the tattoo sleeve and flamboyant lifestyle. And, on the other, the man who stood up for his mates, led from the front, and was a tower of strength for everyone around in times of stress.

On the field, in a career that is set to end at 115 Tests and 245 One-Day Internationals, he has achieved enough to leave the game with a rich legacy. Here’s a look at ten of those highs that Clarke would be remembered for.

Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke © Reuters Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke

1. Century on Test debut

The promise Clarke, then 23, showed on his Test debut in 2004 at M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore suggested great things. The 389th player to don the Baggy Green, his 151 became the highest by an Australian on debut away from home, and his elegant stroke play evoked comparisons with Mark Waugh. Australia won that Test by 217 runs, drew the next, won the third by 342 runs and lost the fourth by 13 runs to record a rare series win in India, and a star was born.

Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke © Reuters Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke

2. The golden arm

Later in the same series, Clarke revealed the golden arm he became known for, especially in the first half of his career. It was the fourth and final Test in Mumbai. Australia had taken a first-innings lead. But half-centuries from VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar had changed the script somewhat before Nathan Hauritz sent them both back. It was then that Clarke came on and completely overshadowed the more established bowlers in his side to return magical figures of 6 for 9 from 6.2 overs.

It all started when Adam Gilchrist caught Rahul Dravid off the glove. Next, Ricky Ponting took a brilliant catch at silly point off Dinesh Karthik’s poke. With the tea interval only moments away, Mohammad Kaif was trapped lbw to a delivery that straightened after pitching. After the break, as Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik and Zaheer Khan were sent back in the blink of an eye. No other Australian bowler has ever taken six wickets in a Test innings for less than ten runs.

Australia still lost, but Clarke did his growing reputation no harm.

Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke © Reuters Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke

3. Centuries in first home and away Tests

Clarke’s incredible tour of India, where he amassed 400 runs in eight innings – including that debut century and the six-for – meant that he topped both the batting and bowling averages for the series with 57.14 and 2.16 respectively.

On returning to Australia, then, he took his form in to the first home Test he was a part of, scoring a fantastic 141 against New Zealand in Brisbane. And with it, he joined an elite group of batsmen who have scored a century in both their first away and home Tests.

Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke © Reuters Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke

4. Golden arm redux

That Clarke played such a key role in helping Australia win that infamous Sydney Test of 2008 against India is often forgotten. Picking up three wickets in one over is, by no means, an ordinary achievement. With India 210 for 7 in their second innings, and needing to fend off only a few more deliveries for the match to end in a draw, Ponting turned to Pup as his last resort.

Anil Kumble, the India captain, negotiated Clarke’s first over comfortably. In his next over, however, Clarke turned the game on its head, handing Australia their 16th consecutive Test victory to level Steve Waugh’s record.

Clarke struck with the first two balls of the over, having Harbhajan Singh caught by Mike Hussey and then RP Singh lbw with the next. Clarke was on a hat-trick with India needing to see off just 1.4 overs, and a young Ishant Sharma played out the hat-trick ball and the next, but couldn’t help but edge the fifth ball of the over to Hussey.

Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke © AP Photo Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke

5. Reeling off the double tons

Already the lynchpin of the Australian batting at No. 5 after 2006, Clarke succeeded Adam Gilchrist as vice-captain in 2008 after the wicketkeeper-batsman’s retirement. He was then handed the reins of the ODI and Test teams after Ponting stepped down as captain after the 2011 World Cup and took charge of a team that had lost most of the men that made it the most dominant force in the world. And Clarke silenced his critics – albeit temporarily – in style by scoring seven centuries in his first 15 Tests as full-time skipper. That included a record four double centuries in a calendar year – in 2012.

Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke © Reuters Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke

6. The golden year

In the 2011-12 Ashes series that Australia lost, Clarke was welcomed with boos when he led his team out on to the field. Many had lost faith in him as his run trough was accompanied by an enhanced media profile. However, by 2012 – the year of the four double-centuries – he realised, and perhaps exceeded, his true potential. The four double centuries were the most in a calendar year anyway, and the 1595 runs he totalled were the most by an Australian in a calendar year and fourth highest of all time.

Starting the year with an unbeaten 329 against India, he scored 210 two matches later in the same series. The home season then started with an unbeaten 259 against South Africa and he followed that up with 230 in the next match, the runs in that last innings coming off just 226 balls.

Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke © Getty Images Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke

7. Australia’s Ashes whitewash

In the Ashes of 2013-14, played in Australia, Clarke became the third Australian captain to lead his team to a whitewash after Warwick Armstrong (1920-21) and Ricky Ponting (2006-07). Fittingly, Clarke was the one who caught Boyd Rankin above his head at slip to seal a 281-run victory in the final Test. Clarke himself scored 363 runs that series with centuries in consecutive Tests for an average of 40.33, behind David Warner, Brad Haddin and Chris Rogers.

Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke © Getty Images Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke

8. Farewell to the “Little Brother”

Tough times often bring out the best in men, and in leaders. The tragic death of Phil Hughes, who Clarke called his “Little Brother”, was about as debilitating a blow as they come. The series against India was just around the corner, and that’s when Clarke stood up, stood tall, and, disregarding his own grief, played the role of the emotional anchor the entire cricketing community needed. His eulogy was regarded as one the finest speech ever by a sportsman. It was, thus, no surprise that the Australian captain’s stature rose manifold after that. When the series finally started, Clarke scored an emotional century that he dedicated to Hughes, but then tore his hamstring and missed the remainder of the series.

Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke © AP Photo Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke

9. High five at the World Cup

Clarke’s woes with injuries continued but he worked hard in his bid to play one last World Cup, played at home and in New Zealand in 2015. Though their co-hosts beat them narrowly in one of the group games, Australia were dominant for the most part, reaching the final rather easily. On the eve of the final, Clarke announced that he would step away from ODIs after the tournament in order to prolong his Test career. In the final, Australia breezed past New Zealand to win their fifth World Cup title, and Clarke was given a standing ovation at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where he was once booed.

Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke © AP Photo Top 10 reasons to remember Michael Clarke

10. Up there at No. 4

As he gets ready to play his 115th and final Test, Clarke has 8628 runs next to his name, making him No. 4 in the list of highest Australian Test run scorers. Only Steve Waugh (10,927), Allan Border (11,174) and Ricky Ponting (13,378) stand ahead of him on that list.

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