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Soup of This Day #270: Everywhere I Hear The Sound Of Marching, Charging Feet

November 26, 2012

This is moss. A Rolling Stone will not gather it. The lazy sods – Photo: KirinX, 2007. KirinX is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Michael Clarke is not your stereotypical Australian cricketer.

Which is not a bad thing – The stereotypical Australian cricketer has lost the last 2 Ashes series, so it’s probably time for something a little different, an evolution of sorts.

Different though is sometimes a little difficult to adjust to. Clarkey hasn’t been a natural 1 to warm to for the traditionalists. He doesn’t like beer but he does like shopping and has modelled underwear. Those 3 things alone risk putting him out of step with old school cricket fans, who expect their heroes to knock back a carton of full-strength for brekky, before swatting aside the Poms in the morning session, having a quick shag with the missus during the lunch break and then compiling a quick-fire 150 not out by stumps.

The tea break is set aside for a nice quiet cuppa of coffee. Hold the foamy @#$%.

The only shopping allowed is to shout some fans a round in the bar afterward and the only modelling is of a moustache which has been grown to raise funds for cancer research.

Clarkey, otherwise known as Pup, doesn’t even look like he could grow a stache – At least not your good ol’ fashioned dead spitfire patio on the upper lip.

Thankfully there is something that Pup can do to satisfy the cricket tragic.

He can play a decent innings.

Which is underselling him a bit because, in truth, he can play the game better than almost everyone. Of late some have even began to debate if Michael Clark belongs in the company of the greatest to have ever wielded the willow.

Sir Donald Bradman.

Which is a mighty compliment – To have even earned enough respect to be featured in an argument as to whether you could get into the ring with The Don is something special. Even if the answer is generally in the negative. Still, there’s a scant handful of names that have been tossed up as the heir to Bradman and they all deserve due consideration.

This post then is an attempt to honour that for Clarkey – Is he good enough to join The Don at the peak of cricketing excellence? – Like a 2-headed thing with 2 batting helmets and a limitless array of attacking strokes?

Short answer – Probably not.

Longer answer – No.

I’m not even sure if such a comparison is valid – For 1, we’re talking half a century and more between the 2 careers and therefore completely different eras in which the 2 plied their trade.

Given this disparity, a truer measure of Bradman’s elevated status is a comparison with his contemporaries. Across 2 decades, 52 tests and 80 innings, The Don amassed his iconic batting average of 99.94. The nearest equivalent? That would be Yorkshireman Herb Sutcliffe, who’s career roughly paralleled Bradman, running from 1930 until 1954 (The Don played from 1928 until 1948). Sutcliffe put up some big numbers and can be considered 1 of the greats of his and any age. Yet his average, from 54 matches and 84 innings, was just 60.73.

That’s a full 39 runs less per visit to the crease than for Sir Donald George Bradman.

And I say ‘just’ as if Herb somehow let everyone down with a mediocre average. He didn’t – His average is the 2nd best in history for those who played more than 30 tests – It’s a mark that almost any batsman in the history of cricket would hope to match only in their wildest dreams. Herb should have been rightly proud of his batting average.

It’s just that Sir Donald was roughly 64% better.

Michael Clarke does not over-match his contemporaries by that much, except perhaps this calendar year and that is surely too small a sample size with which to extrapolate Bradman-like greatness. For sure it has been an extraordinary year for Pup – He began 2012 with a highest score of 185 and whispers that, as good as he was, he lacked that bit extra to go on and notch ‘a big 1’ – 1 of those epic innings that defines greatness, separating the merely very good from the truly great. Such was Clarkey.

Until he belted an Indian attack into oblivion at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), making an undefeated 329, the highest ever individual score on that hallowed turf. That innings alone would have been the meat of legend that Clarke could have dined on for years to come.

He had more to add to the menu though.

He followed up that record breaking knock with another double (210) against India at Adelaide. Only 2 other batsmen had ever scored a double and a triple in the 1 series – Englishman Wally Hammond and – This should not be a surprise – Sir Donald Bradman. That’s some rare company and Pup could have been satisfied with that.

Yeah, not so much. Pup wanted more – He’s still growing you know.

Against South Africa in Brisbane, Michael Clarke took apart the world’s best bowling attack with a glorious 259 not out. This made him 1 of only 2 to have notched up 3 doubles in a calendar year and with 1 of them a triple. You’ll never guess who the other batsman is – Yep, Sir D.G. Bradman once more. So now, for batting feats in a single year Michael Clarke and The Don stood alone. Surely Pup would be content to rest on those laurels.

Nup. There must have been some thorns in them laurels.

Back in Adelaide and still against a South African attack, 1 that had admittedly been weakened by injury, Clarke took the long handle to the Saffers, smearing 224 runs on the 1st day of the Test and compiling 230 overall. That 224 in a day was the best ever at an Australian ground, edging out the 2nd-placed effort by just 1 run.

Yeah, that was The Don too. And just for laughs, take a gander at what the record for the highest individual score in a day on any ground in the world is – That would be 309 breathless runs against England at Leeds.

By Sir Donald Bradman.

Meanwhile Clarke has become the only player in the history of Test cricket to score 4 doubles in a year. All-in-all he’s scored 1309 runs to date in 2012 off of just 8 matches – An average of 119. In terms of runs scored England’s Alistair Cook is 2nd, having clocked up 1044 runs. His total though was via 13 Tests at an average of 47.45. That isn’t a great point of comparison because of the disparity of matches played so it’s a good idea to turn to the next best – West Indian Shivnarine Chanderpaul, with 987 scored across 9 matches at 98.70. That’s a mark that almost any batsman in the history of cricket would hope to match only in their wildest dreams. Shiv should be rightly proud of that 2012 batting average.

It’s just that Michael Clarke has been 20% better.

So not quite Bradman-esque then.

To be honest I’m just going off numbers here – I wasn’t around to see The Don play and I didn’t see much of Clarke’s epics of 2012 either. Mostly because I have to work, or take The Noah to swimming lessons, or even go shopping.

I’m not overly fond of that last 1 either.

I did however get to hear a fair bit of his batting via the ether and the brilliant Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio coverage

Good sporting commentary transports you. It can take you across the airwaves and to the game, as if you’re there, basking in the sun at Adelaide oval as Hilfenhaus sends down a ball on a good length to du Plessis, who defends watchfully.

And you’d think that for Test cricket that would be a not-too-hard task to accomplish, if for no other reason than you’ve got time on your side when ruminating about the play. There are ample intervals between sessions, and between overs and even deliveries for that matter, such that you can elucidate your thoughts and theories, citing precedent from that game back in 1983 that you saw with whatshisname when Kim Hughes made an elegant and adept 106 in Adelaide on a deck eerily reminiscent of this exact 1.

You might even find time for a joke about a frog going to the bank for a loan:

Years later and I have no idea who won that game. Do remember Patricia Whack though.

That froggy humour might seem a little out of place. Surely he’d be focusing on the game you might cry, concerned that the ABC’s Kerry O’Keefe was not taking the cricket seriously.

He was. For all of the comic asides, the cracking 1-liners and the cackling, braying laugh that is the love child of Muttley and a donkey, Kerry O’Keefe is 1 serious cricket guy. That is his genius – Cricket has a rhythm, a redolent 1 at times, but an audible pattern nonetheless. The great commentators of the game will find a way to weave humour, anecdotes and metaphor seamlessly into that rhythm.

So will the great players.

Michael Clarke is different. He doesn’t like beer but he does like shopping and has modelled underwear. He’s also bloody good at cricket – He’ll finish up as 1 of the best, not quite as great as Sir Donald Bradman perhaps, but near enough as to make that cricketing rhythm just a bit more enjoyable.

Good onya Pup.

Everywhere I Hear The Sound Of Marching, Charging Feet

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