The Public Apology has compared the Australian cricket team to a government cabinet on many occasions. As far as analogies go, this shit is water tight.
The similarities are manifold: good governments require a strong, consultative leader and the support of the party room. As such, leadership speculation can have a destabilising effect, despite what leaders will have you believe.
The Australian cricket team – like the Abbott government – is in a difficult spot right now, with several question marks hovering over who is best fit to lead.
Michael Clarke claims he would be happy playing under Steve Smith, should the Australian selectors make such a move. The mere admission that he would be “most definitely” be OK with such a demotion is in striking contrast to Tony Abbott’s refusal to even entertain the possibility of a leadership challenge.
As such, I am certain that such an outcome has already been raised with Clarke. Ever since Steve Waugh’s retirement, Cricket Australia, with its ageist predilection for the barely legal, has constantly looked to the “future” ahead of proven veterans.
Of course, Clarke’s ‘demotion’ – should it occur – would mirror that of Australia’s greatest ever run-scorer Ricky Ponting, when he was stripped of the captaincy back in 2011 in order to “transition” Clarke into the top job.
Cricket, like politics, is a cruel game: at the end of the day, you lose office and your career is over. Rarely do cricketers get to sail into the sunset on their own terms, certainly not in the modern era.
Smith will not challenge Clarke for the job, chiefly due to the fact that, assuming he continues to plunder runs and doesn’t get into any off-field mischief (unlikely to happen), it will come to him of its own accord once Clarke retires.
So has Clarke done enough to end things on his own terms? Or has he already got the tap on the shoulder?
I believe he’s already been told that Smith will get the full-time job, probably ahead of the 2015 Ashes, and this is his attempt to wrestle back the narrative. As opposed to late-era Howard, Clarke’s actually listening to his advisers.
Assuming he gets through the World Cup unscathed, Clarke will have to truly swallow his pride and play a supportive, mentoring role if his international career is to continue, like many before him.
Like Malcolm Turnbull after his defeat to Tony Abbott in 2009, Clarke will take the back-seat to Smith – even though he knows he could do a better job with the (C) next to his name. He might go to England under a Steve Smith regime – and if so, he better play nice.
He’ll put on a brave face for the good of the party, but deep down his ego will be badly bruised. The former leader sent to languish on the backbench, all in the name of good government and national interest. Such is the plight of the spurned leader.
As for Tony Abbott? That c*nt’s toast.
By Dave Edwards