Captaincy, Clarke’s therapy

Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you want to test a man's character, give him power." For a while, it certainly did seem like Michael Clarke had failed Lincoln's litmus test. Not long after being given power in the form of Australia's vice captaincy, Clarke's opening move was to play a big role in hoofing Andrew Symonds, once a close mate and Australia's favourite adopted son, out of the national team.

Pup's image was further tarnished with the Lara Bingle fiasco, what with Clarke leaving the ongoing series in New Zealand to be by the side of his then girlfriend -- whose rather revealing photographs had made it to the centrespread of a local magazine. None of this went down too well with the public, who by the beginning of last year had begun booing him out of several Australian grounds during the ODI series against England. Somewhere along the way, the blue eyed boy from New South Wales had managed to become the devil in Simon Katich's nightmares.

Then something very interesting and unexpected happened. Cricket Australia, going well against the wishes of their PR advisors, backed possibly the most disliked sporting figure within their shores to a permanent role as Test captain of a suffering side. Right there, Pup found the mongrel in him just as a boy with a drinking problem had once turned into Test cricket's most successful captain.

Like with Ricky Ponting, responsibility has changed Clarke immeasurably. In both cases, more so in the current one, the home board must take a lion's share of the credit in his turnaround — as player and in image.

Apart from the fact that Clarke has four double centuries in his first full calendar year as leader (only 19 players in Test history have scored four or more double tons in their careers; Clarke in one year) and lies 76 runs away from redefining the word feat with two triple centuries in the same year, it is his ability to put team before individuals (declaring himself on 259 being a case in point) that has won the public back.

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