From tragedy to surgery to the World Cup final - Michael Clarke’s incredible journey
His story over the past four months may well have been a hero’s biopic. However, the greatest chapter of it is still to unfold.
Michael Clarke has captained Australia on numerous occasions, but this time it will be as huge as it gets. In what will be his last ODI, he will lead his country in the World Cup final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Sunday against a formidable New Zealand outfit that hasn’t lost a single game in the tournament.
Losing a close friend couldn’t have been easy
If all goes well for him, Clarke could be lifting the World Cup on the night of the 29th, and there are no prizes for guessing who he and each Australian player and supporter will have in their heart – their own Phillip Hughes, who passed away in November last year doing what he loved doing the most.
Clarke had already injured his hamstring thrice in six weeks, the latest being the injury that he suffered in the first ODI in a series against South Africa at Perth on November 14. He missed out on the rest of the series. Australia did not want to risk him with the important Test series against India coming up and the World Cup due in about three months. He underwent scans and tests on the same foot he had injured thrice now. He was still recuperating from his injury when tragedy struck.
Phillip Hughes, one of his best mates in the cricketing fraternity, succumbed to an injury on November 27 after he was struck by a bouncer at the SCG a couple of days before. Clarke met Hughes when he was just 17 and had come to play for the Western Suburbs. The duo represented New South Wales together as well before Hughes made his international debut and donned the national colours.
Clarke’s leadership skills shone in times of tragedy
Clarke could be seen battling his tears as he addressed the gathering at Hughes’ funeral, and also when he spoke to the media following the tragic incident.
He has gone on record saying that these were the hardest days of his life. To come out of it all as a winner as he has, makes you respect him even more. He has shown the qualities of a true leader and fighter, and winning the World Cup as skipper would be a fitting end. It will not set right the irreparable but will certainly give him something to cherish and dedicate to his fallen brother.
In what he dubbed as the most important Test of his career, Clarke scored a brilliant century in the tour opener against India at the Adelaide Oval that started on December 9. On the fifth day of play, however, he hurt his hamstring again while attempting a throw, and this time the injury was pretty serious.
So serious, in fact, that there was a possibility he would never be able to play for his country again, let alone the World Cup. He had to undergo tests again, and this time it was ascertained that he had to go under the knife to set things right. He was then operated on his hamstring tendon.
A proud Australian above everything else
Getting back wasn’t easy either. Cricket Australia gave him a deadline to be fit before the clash against Bangladesh on February 21, failing which he would not feature in the World Cup at all. Although the game was washed out, Clarke did manage to keep up with the date and took over his role of captain in the following match against New Zealand at Auckland on February 28.
There were also concerns regarding whether he would be able to fly for the games, owing to a chronic back problem, but his recovery was faster than anticipated. He responded well to the treatment and was back practising and training a week ahead of schedule.
That just goes to show the love he has for the game and the eagerness he had to go out and play for his country. He did receive good care at the hands of the medics, but his own resolve to get back in the scheme of things was what accelerated the healing process.
He is a proud Australian as he has said numerous times in the past, and feels lucky to have represented his country every time he plays, and to have enjoyed all the experiences that come with it. Although many Aussies feature in the IPL, he is somebody who has kept his distance in most years because he wanted to concentrate on national duty rather than playing for a franchise.
If he gets his hand on the trophy on Sunday, the 33-year-old will have seen the highest and lowest points of his life in these last four months alone. The low did come first, but how he coped with it and got to the high is an example for everybody. He will continue to play Test cricket, but it will be the end of a glorious ODI career that began against England in 2003.
Clarke has 7,907 runs to his name in 222 ODI innings at an average of 44.42. It will be up to the Aussies to give him the perfect farewell in the all-important final.
It is hard to imagine the amount of mental and physical trauma that Clarke went through in the last month of last year, and to have come back hard after fighting all odds speaks volumes of the man’s character. It is this spirit that the sport celebrates. Only those who possess the highest calibre stand the test of time in this beautiful game and are remembered for a long time after they leave the sport, and Clarke has ensured he is counted among those legends.