Michael Clarke’s damning comments about some teammates in a recent interview to promote his autobiography are a reminder of the long history of strife in Australian cricket. Infighting is usually associated with teams in the Indian subcontinent, with Pakistan being top of the pile.
But while the reasons and means of Pakistani infighting are often juvenile — somebody going to the casino, somebody hitting someone with a bat — in Australia it is sometimes insidious. It is not what we expect from one of the world’s best sporting cultures, known for the sophistication of its infrastructure and training programmes, and also for the voluminous success it has brought Australia in different sports. Clarke, a former captain, legendary player and polarising figure, made the comments on Channel Nine’s 60 minutes show. He clarified an earlier remark, and explained that while he had not called his teammate Shane Watson a cancer, he had said that Watson was a part of a group of players who were like a tumour on the sport.
There are many such instances in Australian cricket. Clarke, for example, had a difficult time when he was vice-captain to Ricky Ponting. Ponting was from Tasmania, and Clarke from New South Wales. This may not have been a factor in the tension between Ponting and Clarke. But there is a belief in Australia that New South Wales players enjoy clout even in the national team.
There is a belief in Australia that New South Wales players enjoy clout even in the national team. And this has sometimes caused divisions in the dressing room. The late and outspoken Australian cricketer David Hookes once said, “When they give out the baggy blue cap in New South Wales, they give you a baggy green one (of the national team) in a brown paper bag as well to save making two presentations”. Regional bias, therefore, is not prevalent in India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka alone.
The most poignant press conference in the history of cricket also involved an Australian player, Kim Hughes. And one of the reasons for his emotional crisis was tension with teammates and the player community. In the early 1980s, Hughes was the captain of a team divided by loyalty to the Australian Cricket Board and to Kerry Packer’s newly minted World Series Cricket. In addition, Hughes struggled with his own form and received brutal press. When, after defeat against the West Indies in Brisbane, he arrived at a press conference to announce his retirement as captain, he was a wreck.
“The constant speculation, criticism and innuendo by former players and sections of the media have taken their toll,” Hughes began. “In the interest of the team....” He held back tears at this point before making one more aattempt. “In the interest of the team, of Australian cricket...”
Hughes couldn’t go on. He passed the note to the Australian manager Bob Merriman to read out and walked out. It was a touching sight. Kim Hughes was at one time a sunshine presence in the sport, with regal strokes and a blond mane to match. Now, barely 30, he walked out of the room, an unexpected question mark over his career plans, a sudden schism in his heart.
Image Source Indiatimes.com