Show some respect: an open letter to the Cricket Press

Michael Clarke ponders his retirement decision on final day of the 4th Ashes Test (photo via ESPN Cricinfo)

Michael Clarke ponders his retirement decision on final day of the 4th Ashes Test (photo via ESPN Cricinfo)

Michael Clarke announced his resignation as captain of the Australian cricket team and his retirement from all forms of cricket only 3 days ago.  I confess that I have not been a massive fan of Michael Clarke over the years however I felt a significant sense of loss at the confirmation of the end his, frankly, magnificent career.

Regardless of my negative feelings as a fan of the game, towards Michael Clarke, I have been, frankly, appalled at his treatment by the press, in both Australia and England, in the aftermath of his retirement.  Stories containing allegations ranging from a schism with other players through to an alleged offer to return his baggy green cap have been splashed across our broadsheets.

I just don’t understand why these stories are especially relevant now? Yes we all want to know the circumstances that surround such a poor performance by the Australian team in this Ashes series BUT to do so in the immediate aftermath of Clarke’s retirement is not only unseemly but it is massively disrespectful of a man who:

  • Has held the highest office in the land (including the Prime Ministerial office) for a not insignificant period of time.
  • Has played 114 test matches for his country and has, until the last 12 months, performed consistently at the highest of levels to average over 50 runs per innings.
  • Showed his measure as not only a leader but as a man, leading a whole sport, let alone his country, in grief after the passing of Phil Hughes.

This attack on not only Clarke’s career but his character almost has a pre-planned feel to it.  Whether you liked him or loathed him he did not deserve this in what ought to have been a period in which his career should be being lauded.

I have to say I am especially appalled by the revelations that have come from Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds this week.  Again I ask: why now? And again this attack from these former players appears to have been both pre-planned and based on a personal dislike for Clarke.  To attack a former player in such an open and unseemly manner immediately after his retirement is nothing short of petty.  To say I have lost a lot of respect for both Hayden and Symonds this week would be an understatement.

The Cricket Press have much to answer for and I can only implore them now to call off the metaphorical attack dogs and show Michael Clarke some respect which he has certainly earned.

Cricket: Graeme Smith has retired … Is Brad Haddin next?

The retirement of Graeme Smith came as a shock this morning however on reflection I really can not think of a better time for him to take this step: he has been captain for 11 years, has lead South Africa to the top of the test match world and his form is starting to wane. He is going before his form has become an embarrassment and his place in the team questioned. Put differently he has gone his own terms.

The Smith retirement has gotten me thinking about who else might retire after this series and the name that kept coming into my head was that of Brad Haddin.

I am not saying that Brad Haddin should not be in the Australian team. For mine he should be in this team for as long as he wants. And that is my point: he has earned the right to pick when he retires.

Right now seems to me to be the perfect time though to exercise that right for the following reasons:

1. There can be no bigger high than destroying the English in the Ashes and then coming to South Africa, and one assumes, and winning the against the best in the world.

2. He is at the peak of his powers with the gloves whilst in this series we have seen a slight drop in his batting form.

3. Australia’s program of cricket sees them not playing test match cricket again until September of this year (if the future torus program stands up) which is a long time between top flight games.

4. There is no position in Australian cricket that has more depth than wicket keeper: Messrs Paine, Wade and Hartley could all step into Haddin’s shoes.

5. Unlike the Ashes, no one expects it, Haddin retiring, to happen here.

No decision has obviously been made and Haddin was overt in stating he was not retiring any time soon after the Ashes. That said: the “perfect storm” I refer to above makes me wonder if it has at least gone through his mind.

The next obvious moment that might lead to retirement thoughts for Haddin is the World Cup in 2015 in Australia. I remember though the torturous final games of the Ian Healy era behind the stumps when his batting and keeping both deserted him and I hope that his current dip of form with the willow is not a guide for things to come.

The first thing I will be doing in the morning, if the test match is still going, will be to check whether an announcement has been made, like the Smith announcement this morning. I am equally parts hopeful, because Haddin deserves to go out at the very top, and fearful, because I love the way Haddin plays the game, that I will wake to read such an announcement.

Tendulkar retires: a player of a lifetime, not just a generation

The biggest news in cricket circles this week, indeed probably this year, is the impending retirement of Sachin Tendulkar from all cricket. As a cricket fan, it oft discussed who is the best player in the world, who is the best player of the generation and who is the best player ever.

I will never be convinced that there has ever been a player better than Bradman. Numbers don’t lie and Bradman’s average will never be replicated, particularly now with the ever weakening of techniques that arises from T20 cricket. The fact is that, by the same premise, it is pretty clear that Sachin Tendulkar is, easily in my view, the best player of the last 25 years. As I said above, numbers don’t lie,and Tendulkar’s numbers, in an era where first class cricket has taken a back seat, are nothing short of phenomenal.

Forget the batting records for a minute here and consider this: Tendulkar has been playing test match cricket since he was 16. His debut was in 1989. Simply, Tendulkar’s presence in the game can not be considered with reference to just one generation because he transcends generations. For goodness sake: Australia’s captain when he debuted was Allan Border. That era of Australian cricket seems like a lifetime ago doesn’t it? Indeed, in my respectful opinion, that fact alone makes him the player of our lifetime. Because, much like Bradman, his records will never be broken AND he played for so long.

It is just not Tendulkar’s longevity that sets him apart though. For the purist there are many images that one thinks of when reminiscing about what they love about the game. For me there is a Ricky Ponting hook shot, Glenn McGrath vs Mike Atherton and Allan Donald in full flight. However, as images go there is has been none purer in the last 24 years of cricket watching for me than a Sachin Tendulkar on drive.

That’s what I will miss the most in Tendulkar’s retirement: that on drive that has tormented bowlers of all types around the world.

It is a fallacy to consider who will be the next Tendulkar because, just like the search for the next Bradman has been fruitless, such a search will likewise be fruitless. As fans the world over we should simply bask in the joy that was Tendulkar at the crease these last two test matches because there will never be another player like him.