Hidden among a handful of broken Sri Lankan fingers and the Mitchell Johnson show at the MCG Boxing Day Test was yet another significant score from a supposedly-hamstrung Michael Clarke
It seems his reliability has become so passé now that it is considered a given that he will freely score with style whenever he is at the crease.
Ticking over the counter for sessions and keeping Mark Nicholas buried in a thesaurus for unused superlatives is just what the Big Dog does for his crust nowadays.
So considering that Clarke’s incessant run-scoring has become nigh-on boring, his captaincy is positively progressive and thus far rather successful, and that he hasn’t been sighted in a pair of Bonds on a billboard for donkey’s, is it fair to say we are seeing something special forming before our eyes?
Is this the gestational period for status as an all-time worshipped immortal of Australian Test cricket?
You know the type I am talking about. Unconditionally loved and revered, where all of your books are so popular that major forests are wiped out by publishers, where your old signed bats still go for a motzah at auction even though they’ve taken on the form of a rotten banana, and where a spot on the Nine commentary team is created for you, no matter how packed it is behind those funny little microphones they use.
Think of your Waughs, Taylors, Borders, Chappells and Bradmans. The Qantas lounge of captaincy. The palatial palace of performance and perfection.
Air-conditioning adverts where you can wear comfy collared shirts, KB-laden legends games in postcard locations and of course, a job at the Academy of Excellence whenever you damn want it.
Is it fair to say that Clarke will end up in this rare club of treasured champs?
When it comes to the currency of scoring, he seems to be running pretty close to schedule. At age 31 and with 6910 Test runs under his belt, he could finish around the magical 10k mark with another three or so years on the circuit, which would place him right among the stick-wielding greats.
As we all know however, the sweet language of runs is only one KPI for access to the post-career riches saved for Australia’s former golden cricket commanders. Stealing loads of big shiny trophies from other ambitious nations is also paramount to getting your name on the door, and this is where Clarke has a golden opportunity to springboard upwards.
The skipper will be taking his young and developing unit on upcoming tours to the unforgiving surrounds of India, followed by a double-shot of Ashes contests. Culture shocks and oafish galleries of torment can be promised for his hot-and-cold charges, and don’t forget the capabilities of the quality opposition on the park too.
Can he deliver a burst of good times with a somewhat embryonic squad against blue ribbon opposition?
One thinks that if he can return with two series wins out of these three, he’ll be extremely close to 24-carat golden boy calibre. An Ashes series win in England where he trumps Alastair Cook in the runs column and we may strike a copper bust of him and encourage him to run for Senate.
Finally, there’s the Clarke kryptonite, that being the intangible factor of public acceptance.
It’s no secret that he was simply not a warmed-to figure for many years, but judging by the raucous standing-O he received on day one at the MCG, it appears the pure weight of runs on the big stage is fast eroding much of that contempt.
He may need to laser his tatts one day to receive the streams of uncapped adulation that your Tuggers and Tubbies are bestowed, but at least the public don’t want to unreasonably egg him anymore.
He’s making rapid progress.
So with Clarke’s batting game in fine nick and the possibility of marquee series wins for a thirsty cricketing nation on the horizon, should we book him a seat in the pantheon of greats, or is there plenty more work for him to do?
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 02 January, 2013 3:41PM AEST