Michael Clarke strongly denies reports of team disharmony as reason for retirement
Outgoing Australian Test skipper Michael Clarke has reacted angrily to reports that disharmony among team members had forced him to call time on his career, Sky Sports reports. He was especially critical of reports that a long-running feud between the wives of two senior players had a huge bearing on his decision.
The Courier Mail had claimed that “the year-long disintegration in the off-field relationship between Clarke and the rest of the team” meant the Australian team were never going to do well in the Ashes series. It added that Clarke opted to travel separately in his private vehicle rather than the team bus and that he rarely attended team get-togethers.
They reported that Clarke had joined his teammates for a rare drink on the night he announced his decision to retire from cricket but added that he ended the day opening his heart to former player Shane Warne rather than any of the present squad members.
Clarke strongly refuted the allegations saying that the team was a well knit one.
"I can guarantee you, the feeling in this group is exceptional," Clarke told Australia's Triple M radio. There is no disharmony in this group whatsoever. The players are as tight as any team I've been a part of."
The 34-year-old had a more explicit response when it came to the ‘travelling separately’ story.
"Travelling in different cars. What a load of ****,” Clarke said.
Blaming WAGs for Ashes defeat is ‘absolute garbage’: Clarke
The newspaper had also claimed that difference of opinions between the wives of two senior players had led to friction between them. Former Australian wicket-keeper Ian Healy also echoed similar thoughts on the issue of WAGs (Wives and Girlfriends).
"Your mind needs to be completely focused on it. Cricket is a sport that requires complete concentration. You need everything going for you and I'm not sure they're pushing for that hard enough." Healy said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. "Their hearts might not be that strong ... are they together as a team? Do they fragment from here? Do they meet and talk about it tonight? Will they confront it?"
Clarke strongly denied the views and stressed the players alone were at fault for their performance
"Wives and girlfriends being on tour is a distraction? What a load of ****. That's absolute garbage. I'll give back 10 of my Test 100s if it wasn't for my beautiful wife. At the end of the day the players are the ones who walk onto the field, we have to perform and we haven't performed well enough," Clarke said.
Clarke reiterates poor form had led to his decision to retire
Clarke once again emphasised that only cricketing issues had forced him to take the tough call of retiring from the game after the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval.
"I've always prided myself on leading from the front as captain and making sure I'm contributing to success by making runs," he said, according to Eurosport. "It's heartbreaking to have played the way I've played and not helped the team get over the line. The retirement is at the right time for me and the team."
He acknowledged the untimely death of his close friend Philip Hughes late last year had left a big impact on his mind.
"The part I didn't expect was how hard it hit me personally, there's no doubt I miss him every day," Clarke said. “It still affects me personally but as an Australian sportsman, you need to be leading from the front and still performing and unfortunately I haven't been able to do that."
Clarke, however, expressed confidence that Australia can return to winning ways sooner rather than later.
"There's going to be some tough times but I think the talent we have in the Australian sporting community is like no other," he said. “I think that we need to stick together and keep the faith."