29 March 2015
A tale of two captains
Similar in some ways, starkly different in others; what binds Clarke and McCullum is that they lead by example
Chalk and cheese or brothers in arms?
In many ways, Brendon McCullum and Michael Clarke are like chalk and cheese. In others, they are brothers in arms.
Born six months apart, McCullum and Clarke made their one-day international debuts within 12 months of each other in 2002 and 2003 respectively.
On Sunday, Clarke will bid farewell to the ODI game as he aims to prolong his career in the longer form of the game, while McCullum, who appears to still be reaching his potential as both player and skipper, will hope to claim a place in New Zealand sporting history.
Both will be seeking one-day cricket’s greatest prize.
Clarke hails from Sydney’s working-class west but the marketable star has become an A-list cricket celebrity and last year launched his own Michael Clarke Cricket Academy.
In 244 ODI appearances – not including today’s final – he has scored 7909 runs at an average above 44 with eight centuries and 57 fifties.
He sits sixth in the list of Australia players with the most one-day caps behind Ricky Ponting (374), Steve Waugh (325), Adam Gilchrist (286), Allan Border (283) and Glenn McGrath (249).
Clarke was part of Australia’s winning World Cup team in 2007 and took over the ODI captaincy following the 2011 World Cup which saw Australia ousted at the quarter-final stage.
"I think it's the right time for me and the Australian cricket team," Clarke said after announcing his ODI retirement on Saturday.
"I was very fortunate four years ago to get the opportunity for me to captain this one-day team.
"That was very good preparation for me leading up to this World Cup and I think the next Australian captain deserves the same opportunity.
Renowned for being professional, reliable and focused, his captaincy is one of the most tactical of the current crop of one-day skippers and he makes his decisions based on logic and reason.
One of the game’s classical batsman, Clarke regularly pulls out masterstrokes on and off the field and has led from the front, particularly in recent months when he has had to battle his way into the World Cup after hamstring surgery.
Long hours of rehabilitation and training ensured his return against the Black Caps in Auckland.
Likewise, Clarke was a pillar of strength for his players as they dealt with the devastating passing of Phillip Hughes late last year.
Meanwhile, McCullum hails from Dunedin in New Zealand’s deep south.
A talented rugby player before focusing his attention on cricket, McCullum made his ODI debut when and has since played 248 matches – just four more than Clarke - scoring 5808 runs at 30.73 including five centuries and 31 fifties.
Since becoming New Zealand’s ODI skipper in 2012 he has led his team up the one-day rankings and turned it into a force to be reckoned with.
“Yeah, it wasn't so long ago that we weren't in a great space in international cricket,” McCullum said on Saturday.
“We went through some pretty tough times and that led us to strip things right back and to be totally honest about where we sat in the international game … (and) also to develop and understand the style of play we wanted to play.
“I guess at that point in time we stripped it all back and we started to try to plot our way forward.”
Like Clarke, he leads his team by example.
His captaincy is the same as his batting. Aggressive, innovative, instinctive and explosive with no half-measures.
Not afraid to make call out of left field, McCullum had consistently surprised his opponents and everyone watching throughout the tournament.
New Zealand is the only team to have taken a review within the first 10 overs of each of its pool matches and the belief that bleeds from the pores of the players and coaches stems from the confidence of McCullum.
No other team has been as aggressive in its field placings as New Zealand and McCullum is happy to bleed runs if it means securing a key wicket sooner.
McCullum's captaincy has been praised by New Zealand legends Sir Richard Hadlee and Stephen Fleming, with the latter calling it "contagious".
He believes this approach has been crucial to the Black Caps’ success, so do not expect him to change any time soon.
“We want to play that brand of (aggressive) cricket. We've identified that that's what's going to make us a team which is going to be tough to beat. I can't see that changing,” McCullum said.
What Clarke and McCullum do share is mutual respect.
Ahead of the final, Clarke said he had a “great relationship” with McCullum.
“I'll always be grateful for the way him and his team respected the Hughes tragedy and respected Phillip's family, so that's probably brought us closer together,” Clarke said.
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