Sports broadcaster Gerard Whateley has opened up on his spat with former Australian Test captain Michael Clarke.
Whateley had claimed Australian cricket’s cultural issues could be traced back to Clarke’s appointment as captain, prompting a social media rant from Clarke in which he labelled the former ABC Grandstand commentator a “headline-chasing coward”.
Clarke had previously suggested the Australian cricket team should prioritise playing “tough” cricket over being liked.
Now that some time has passed and with Australia about to face India in Adelaide in the first of four Test matches, Whateley told The Grade Cricketer podcast the feud was “unedifying”.
“I was in the kitchen, just finishing cooking dinner, and got a text saying ‘have you seen this?’ and no I hadn’t seen it,” Whateley said.
“When you end up in these things, I probably think it’s unedifying and that’s how I’ve sort of come away from it for the week. Just going ‘I’ve got to try and do better than that’.”
He said part of the reaction against Clarke stems from the Australian public not truly embracing him during his time as Test skipper.
“In no way am I going to intend to be critical here, he was a different captain, in a way he was thoroughly a new-age captain and I probably think for a period of time people didn’t absolutely know how to take him,” Whateley said.
“He had a different demeanour and dynamic within the team – and that’s just to read the autobiographies of those who played with him to get a full understanding of that.
“He was around celebrity probably more so than cricketers have been, so in a way he was a thoroughly modern sportsman who crossed over into the paparazzi set, away from just the theatre of sport.”
‘The line’ and Clarke’s tenure
Clarke found a backer in old team-mate Matthew Hayden, who warned the team could lose its competitive edge if it stopped playing “hard and fair” cricket.
But amid the debate over the culture surrounding the men’s national cricket team, former opener Simon Katich defended the sport’s new ethos, arguing that Clarke was “missing the point”.
— Michael Clarke (@MClarke23) November 28, 2018
Whateley had said talk of “not crossing the line” only seemed to emerge during Clarke’s tenure as captain, and not in previous teams, which prompted the entire feud between the broadcaster and the cricketer.
“The flex point I think in Australian cricket, and I’ve sort of long held this view, is essentially the choice of Clarke and Simon Katich of what Australian cricket might have chosen in that moment and the path that it went down,” Whateley told the podcast.
“You can have your views as to what would have served cricket better or what would have served your own view of cricket better.
“I actually think there is a clear flex point there and if you run that all the way through.
“It’s not that there haven’t been moments in Australian cricket before, but I think that sense of international repulsion which — was given very strong voice in the aftermath of what happened in South Africa — I think you can trace that back and it starts to build rather intensely from that moment and I do think that is where the genesis of the language around ‘the line’ comes in.
“I don’t think you’ll find ‘the line’ in the Allan Border years or the Steve Waugh years, and I don’t believe you’ll find it in the Ricky Ponting years either.
“I think ‘the line’ was an invention of that time and then we saw where that ended up running too. It’s ‘the line’ that is that legacy piece for me.”
Clarke’s response to Whateley also centred on the commentator not being, “talented enough or courageous enough to make it onto a cricket pitch”.
Whateley said the sporting public has been coming around to the idea of those that haven’t played the sport being an acceptable pundit, alongside those who have.
“It was a fairly common refrain for some decades and in the world of Aussie rules I’m pretty sure that held sway for a while,” Whateley said.
“Those barriers have lowered, as most people accept there is a place for the voice of those who haven’t played to mix with those who have.”