Pu­pe­volves into one hun­gry dog

Townsville Bulletin - - Sport -

‘‘Hay­den Jack­son,

to MAYBE it’s time to stop call­ing Michael Clarke ‘Pup’.

It was a per­fect nick­name for him un­til now. Pups are love­able, bouncy pets who bring smiles all round un­til they do some­thing they shouldn’t on the new rug.

In a Test ca­reer of lit­tle more than two years Clarke has twice been sent to the naughty cor­ner for not mak­ing the most of his abun­dant nat­u­ral tal­ent.

Obe­di­ence train­ing has now paid off. The pup has de­vel­oped a bit of mon­grel.

The 2006-07 Ashes se­ries has shown us a new side to Clarke’s char­ac­ter.

He was ro­bust in Bris­bane with 56, just the sort of in­nings his cap­tain called for, and in Ade­laide he read the mood of the game as­tutely as he com­piled 124 over nearly five and a half hours.

That put his team in po­si­tion to chal­lenge a daunt­ing firstin­nings to­tal. The bal­ance of power tilted and Clarke’s good friend Shane Warne swarmed all over Eng­land on the fi­nal day.

There is ob­vi­ously more to Michael Clarke than some had sus­pected.

Things came so eas­ily for him at the start of his ca­reer that he needed to learn that life and Test cricket are not such easy ca­pers as he had imag­ined.

Warne has spo­ken of how much he val­ued Clarke’s stead­fast com­rade­ship as he went through his mar­riage break-up in Eng­land last year.

Clarke is also close to Damien Mar­tyn, whose in­ner tor­ment and un­ex­pected re­tire­ment un­der­lined again how hard it can be com­bin­ing cricket and life.

For Clarke the net re­sult of Mar­tyn’s de­ci­sion was a move up the or­der to No. 5, a po­si­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity that was be­yond him a year ago.

At 25, Clarke has fully ar­rived as a Test bats­man.

Where once he was in­clined to be cocky, he now brings a more stud­ied con­fi­dence to the crease.

His foot­work through­out this se­ries has been light and pre­cise.

He con­fessed to strug­gling early in his Perth in­nings of 135 not out, but he kept his head down in tem­per­a­tures of more than 50 de­grees in the mid­dle and tai­lored his am­bi­tions ac­cord­ingly.

He picked his mo­ments to at­tack and then drew breath to make sure he had calmed him­self be­fore fac­ing the next ball.

His worst mo­ment came when Steve Harmi­son took the new ball and crashed a lift­ing de­liv­ery into his right thumb.

Clarke reeled back in pain, tore off his glove and grit­ted his teeth against the pain. Once he OFF THE LEASH . . . Michael Clarke ac­knowl­edges his team­mates in the pavil­ion af­ter

bring­ing up his ton in the sec­ond Ashes Test at Ade­laide ear­lier this month es­tab­lished that noth­ing was bro­ken he pulled his glove back on and re­sumed as if noth­ing had hap­pened.

When his hun­dred ar­rived he al­lowed him­self an ap­pro­pri­ate cel­e­bra­tion, ac­knowl­edged Warne and his other team­mates as they stood ap­plaud­ing out­side the dress­ing room, then got on with the job.

Clarke is tak­ing noth­ing for granted, even though he has scored hun­dreds in suc­ces­sive Test matches and Shane Wat­son, the man he re­placed, is out for the se­ries with ham­string trou­bles.

He has learnt that se­cu­rity is an il­lu­sion.

‘‘It’s the game, says.

‘‘It’s un­be­liev­able. A cou­ple of ducks and all of a sud­den you’re play­ing for your spot again.

‘‘I think I’ve learnt from pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ences that it’s one day at a time and you’ve got to work as hard as you can, as hard as you did to make a hun­dred.

isn’t

it?’’ he

‘‘Next time you bat you’ve got to work just as hard to get your­self in that po­si­tion.’’

We knew Clarke for his pre­co­cious de­but cen­turies in Ban­ga­lore and Bris­bane and the un­re­strained joy of his cel­e­bra­tions. They seem to come to him as nat­u­rally as breath­ing.

Now we know him as some­one who has twice been dropped from the Test team and grasped an un­ex­pected re­prieve with both hands.

The pup has grown up.

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