The tale of the National Hamstring is rapidly developing a life of its own.
It is a story of intrigue and high farce that, so far, has taken us no closer to providing an answer to the burning question: when will we next see Michael Clarke in action?
At the weekend, its impact filtered down to the game’s grassroots, reminding us that elite Australian cricket is a product of a club system made up of grizzled competitors not in the habit of giving a sucker an even break – even if he is the national captain.
At this point, it should be noted that as well as playing for – or having played for – Australia, New South Wales, Sydney Thunder and the Pune Warriors, Clarke is also a member of Sydney grade side Western Suburbs, not that he is often seen propping up the bar after selection on a Thursday night.
The relevance of all this is that Clarke and the Australian cricket hierarchy hatched a plot whereby Clarke could bat for his club next Saturday – the second day of a two-day game against Parramatta – in the hope of establishing his fitness before the first Test against India starting on December 4.
That plan was foiled when Parramatta skipper Michael Castle won the toss at Old Kings Oval in Parramatta on Saturday and sent Western Suburbs into bat, knowing it would leave them one man short – and what a man!
Western Suburbs, determined to do the right thing by its most famous player, foiled Parramatta by declaring at 0-17 in the hope of giving Clarke a knock in the second innings the following week.
Parramatta then declared at 2-140 after 23 overs, presumably in the hope of rolling Western Suburbs before Clarke’s return, or at least securing a rare outright.
But they were frustrated again when Western Suburbs made it through to 1-230 at stumps, leaving plenty of scope for Clarke to bat next week, should the team of medicos and physios at Cricket Australia give him the all clear. (See the STOP PRESS below.)
As Andrew Ramsay observed on cricket.com.au: “For a match between the 18th and 20th-placed teams in Sydney’s grade competition, it has the potential to attract interest from across the nation – and quite possibly beyond – if Clarke is able to take to the middle.”
In the meantime, Cricket NSW has launched an investigation into the funny buggers at Old Kings Oval. After all, this was not quite cricket, or at least not in the conventional sense.
“While Cricket NSW and the Sydney Cricket Association are conscious of the broader interests of Australian cricket and hence appreciate the thinking behind this gesture, we are also conscious of the need to maintain the integrity of the Sydney grade competition,” said chief executive Andrew Jones.
The New Daily’s cricket expert, former Test fast bowler Rodney Hogg, chuckled at the shenanigans in Sydney grade cricket.
But he is less than impressed that the selectors are even contemplating playing Clarke at the Gabba, saying that Brad Hiddin should stand in as captain until Clarke has fully recovered.
“It’s become ludicrous,” he said, adding that Australia was putting at risk its most valuable asset – alongside Mitchell Johnson – leading into next year’s Ashes tour.
He was dismissive of suggestions that Clarke – who broke down three times in six weeks – had not been rushed back, paraphrasing legendary Hawthorn coach Allan Jeans’ homily on footballers and sausages.
“He’s got a hamstring. They can give us all this mumbo jumbo, but it doesn’t matter whether you fry them, bake them or curry them – they’re still hamstrings.”
The Australian team will be named on Monday.
Clarke will probably be named, although whether or not he plays is anyone’s guess.
STOP PRESS: Clarke was indeed named in the Test side on Monday, but there was a further twist in the tale of the hammy – a new plan.
“The plan is for Clarke to resume running over the coming days,” it said in a press release.
“If successful he will play for the CA XI in its two-day tour match against the touring Indian side at the Adelaide Oval on Friday. Should Clarke play that match and recover well he will take his place in the Test side.”