No batsman should ever have to leave any cricket field to the sound of booing. Yet that is the fate which was to fall to Michael Clarke when he could not avoid playing the second ball of the final over of the day – a steeply rising ball from Pietersen – onto the hip of his thigh pad from where it continued to rise steeply to the right of and behind Cook at short leg who turned to make a diving catch.
Clarke was inconsolable and in a state of stunned mental confusion as he reeled towards the dressing room.
Yet he was forced to experience further stress and torment when an incompetent umpire failed to read the situation or appreciate that Clarke was ‘walking’ and declined England’s appeal for the catch
A less baffled Clarke would have continued to walk (no doubt risking the wrath of administrators and match referees for ignoring an umpire’s decision and bringing the game into disrepute) but, still shocked and bewildered like a concussed boxer being led by a referee to a neutral corner for a mandatory count he faltered back towards the crease to await the excruciatingly drawn-out process of the UDRS.
In this vulnerable position he now faced the humiliating taunts and ridicule of Team England as the photograph at the top of the page communicates in all its raw school playground mockery.
We are only 9 days into a prospective 25 days of Test cricket, yet this seems a defining moment.
In their ridicule of Australia’s vice captain, England have humiliated their opponents. It is more emasculating than a kick in the balls, more brutal than a foot on a wind pipe.
In their contempt for their Team’s vice captain, some of the cricket-following folk of Australia have turned angrily on their own.
Forgotten are Clarke’s eighty runs today made in fine counterattacking style. Forgotten are his match winning innings for their team over many years. Forgotten is his nomination as Man of the Ashes Series in 2009.
Jrod who knows more about Clarke’s mettle than Third Man says that he has been out in situations like the one today too many times. “If it happens once, he’s a good batsman who was unlucky with the bounce, if it happens time after time after time after time, there is a problem.”
But it is the naked self that crosses the boundary marker on the way to the middle. It is Ego Alone. Clarke is paid well. He enjoys privilege. He is an entertainer or he is nothing. Except that he is a fellow human being with all the vulnerability and frailty we each know attaches to that individuality.
Clarke is worthy to share a pitch with anyone out there today. That is all we need to remember. Oh, and the universal truth that what goes round comes round.