Having guided his team to World Cup triumph with a pivotal innings, Australian captain Michael Clarke on Sunday described his last day in ODI cricket as nothing short of a fairytale.
Australia rode on Clarke’s 72-ball 74 to outplay New Zealand by seven wickets and bag their fifth 50-over World Cup title in front of a record 93,000 MCG crowd.
Asked about how it felt to retire on such a high, Clarke said, “Look, I have said it yesterday (Saturday) that I thought it was the right time. Now I know it’s the right time. I think obviously there’s no such thing as fairytales in sport, but that’s probably as close as it gets for me.
“Not only to win a World Cup but to win in front of your home fans. I think the boys soaked that up from day one and loved every minute of it,” Clarke said at the post match-presentation ceremony.
“I said after our semifinal that mentally we were ready for this final. I think we showed that today (Sunday). The whole squad deserves a lot of credit. Every single player has played a big part in us having success and we’ve worked really hard.
“I think even today (Sunday), once we bowled New Zealand out, six or seven of the guys went to the nets for a hit in the lead up to our batting innings just to make sure they were as well prepared as they could be and be ready to chase those 180 runs,” Clarke was all praise for the intensity showed by boys.
The Phillip Hughes death and the subsequent turn of events had affected Clarke emotionally and he admitted it once again that it was difficult to comeback after such a tragedy.
“You know, I think through the whole World Cup, I made it very clear that it was going to be skill, not emotion that won us the World Cup, and I think a lot of the things I’ve said in press conferences have actually been for myself. I’m saying it out loud so I can hear it myself, and I think that’s probably one of the main things I’ve been saying, skill over emotion will win the World Cup for us, and I think I’ve needed to hear that, as well. I’ve needed to say it out loud because it has been emotional, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.
“To fight my backside off and work as hard as I possibly have to get back into the team, number one, after surgery, and then I guess to deal with what we’ve all dealt with over the last few months and to win a World Cup in front of your home fans, it’s taken amazing discipline from all the players, a lot of hard work, and it’s a fitting reward, like I say, for the pain everyone has gone through.”
Clarke said that he is in regular contact with Hughes’ mother and sister and would wear the black armband for the rest of my career.
“I think Hughesy is thought about and spoken about on a daily basis. I think probably the last couple of months for me personally, it’s probably been harder than when he first passed away. I’ve been in regular contact with his sister and his family. And I know they would have been watching tonight. I guess that’s what makes it so special, that we are still thinking about him.
“We are still talking about him, and we always will. Like I say, I won’t play another game, I certainly won’t play a Test match without his Test number on my hat, and I’ll wear this black armband for the rest of my career. You know, we’ve spoken about it as a team. We believe we played this World Cup with 16 players in our squad, and that will continue for the rest of my career, that’s for sure.”
The skipper said that he will introspect about his future in T20 leagues after taking a break.
“I haven’t thought too much about it (T20 leagues), to be honest. I spoke at the start of the World Cup when there was some talk about the Melbourne Stars and I said I was really concentrating on — I wanted to concentrate on this World Cup and nothing has changed. I think now that the World Cup is over, I’ve had some time to have a think about what I want to do there. I’m still really excited about Test cricket, and then I’ll have a think about the T20 format moving forward.
“Yeah, I don’t want to rush away from this feeling right now and this moment. I want to enjoy over the next few days, I want to enjoy what we’ve achieved as a team. I want to enjoy what I’ve achieved as a One Day cricketer for Australia, and then I’ll have a think about things and assess then.”
Someone, who has always rated Test cricket as the pinnacle of the game, it was no wonder that he termed his Test century against India at Adelaide (last December) as the proudest moment of his career.
When someone asked as to why he chose Saturday to announce his retirement and not after the match, Clarke said, “Because I think tomorrow’s (Monday) press is going to be about the team, and if I announce it tonight, then tomorrow’s (Monday) press wouldn’t have been about the team.
“I’ve probably taken one day of media rather than a week of it. I’m hoping the next week is full of positive things about every single player in that change room and what they’ve achieved in this tournament. But you guys will dictate that.”