Michael Clarke has defiantly shrugged off the uproar of laughter that followed his stunning offer to come out of retirement and help Australian cricket in its most desperate hour.
“The team needs me and I need to give back to this great sport,” said the 37-year-old former Australian captain. “Just give me a year’s worth of physio and chiropractic work and I’m good to go. Maybe a few Panadols, too. And have an ambulance on standby.”
After three years out of the game, on top of playing his entire career nursing the dodgiest back in world cricket, few experts believe Clarke can handle professional sport again. But speaking exclusively to HitWicket.News from his home at the Shady Acres Aged Care and Crippled Spine Facility, Clarke defiantly declared that his high-tech walking frame is strong enough to withstand the rigours of Test cricket.
“My new walker is made of reinforced titanium,” said Clarke. “That’s about a billion times stronger than my wafer-thin spinal bones.”
In fact, Clarke believes his walker is a secret weapon that has kept him in peak batting form these past three years, even without him playing a match or picking up a bat.
“Think about it. When I stoop over my walker grasping the hand-holds, I’m basically in my batting stance. All I have to do is turn my head to the left. The bionic implant in my neck will handle that.”
Clarke says he has been keeping fit since retiring, through a rigorous regime of bingo and lawn bowls, and that the time away from the game has helped his body. Echoing the kind of hubristic talk you might hear from an over-the-hill boxer who gets trampled in his comeback fight, the 37-year-old said he is in the best shape of his life.
“I can even make it from lunch to dinner without a nap. That’s how great I feel.”
“Who cares if I haven’t faced a delivery over 90kmh since the 2015 World Cup final?”
Clarke has taken inspiration from another former Australian captain, Bob Simpson, who came out of retirement at age 41 to help an Australian team decimated by the World Series Cricket revolution of the late 1970s. “If Bob could come back at 41 against gentle Indian spinners,” said Clarke, “I’ll have no problem against the same sort of bowling.”
When we asked Clarke how he would go facing 155kmh chin music from bowlers like world number one Kagiso Rabada, at that moment his hearing aid mysteriously stopped working. But after we wrote the question down for him, Clarke deftly ducked under our verbal bouncer. “I’ll be the captain, remember? I’ll just instruct my batting partner to face all the fast bowlers. Easy!”
“Besides, I can’t run anymore, so I’ll just stay at my end,” smiled Clarke. “Even when Jimmy Anderson tells me to get ready for a broken fuckin’ arm.”
Clarke’s comeback talk has been sparked by the dire situation Australian cricket finds itself in following the ball tampering suspensions of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft that have decimated its Test team. He believes the team needs proven leadership in a bid to overcome the psychologically devastating ball tampering scandal and revamp its culture.
“I can help the boys look at the issue completely differently,” claimed Clarke. “That’s because, at my age, people tamper with my balls very regularly, checking for cancer.”
“Once I get the team to check my balls, they’ll never want to tamper with any other balls ever again.”
Should Clarke’s comeback eventuate, he will face an enormous challenge rebuilding an Australian team severely lacking in both experience and confidence.
“I have a plan,” said Clarke. “Put me in charge and I’ll revert to a tried and true formula: selecting only my New South Wales mates.”
by John Newell