Michael Clarke: My Story

$49.99, Hardback

MacMillan

Reviewed by Anendra Singh

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FRANKLY I have been waiting for the release of Black Cap batsman Ross Taylor's warts-and-all book, considering he isn't too far from hanging up his bat and boots from national duties.

When Michael Clarke: My Story landed on my workstation, I sort of screwed up my nose at what the former Australian cricket captain could possibly disclose that would make me go: "Mmm."

I was wrong. Clarke spoke volumes about his time at the helm of the Green and Golds' "highest office in the land" before he bowed out last year.

The first time I saw Clarke in person was at Nelson Park, Napier, in 2005 for an ODI match a year after he made his test debut in India.

His collar up (the book reveals he always did that to counter the threat of skin cancer), the then young man lived up to his nickname of "Pup".

I watched him amusingly trying to be the centre of attention, almost darting around the legs of players such as the Waugh brothers (Steve and Mark), Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey, Jason Gillespie and the likes as the veterans appeared to ignore him.

I had come to a conclusion this bloke wasn't going to be leadership material.

In fact, Clarke confirms in his autobiography that even he didn't harbour such intentions: "This might surprise a few people but I never set out on my journey in cricket with any desire at all to be vice-captain, let alone captain of Australia."

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Undeniably the small grafter, who sees himslef as having failed then skipper Ponting, was a world-class batsmen before retiring last year.

The four-time Allan Border Medal winner defied the odds to go on to become the 43rd Baggy Green skipper in 2011 but at a time when Australia were at their lowest ebb with an Ashes flogging at home and a premature exit from the ODI World Cup.

Averaging a shade under 50 runs in the test arena, he struck a rapport with South Africa coach Mickey Arthur who was eventually dumped somewhat unceremoniously.

But he was an emotional man who couldn't camouflage tears welling up during media scrums.

For me the key revelation in Clarke's book is how even a cricketing force in the world isn't immune to skulduggery.

It is unashamedly why cricket is the most political of all sport.

I find traction with Clarke whose parents did a remarkable job of raising a starry-eyed boy in trying conditions in a working class suburb in the southwest of Sydney. Not surprisingly his compassion for and loyalty to family are commendably transparent.

His mistrust of the media also comes to the fore, highlighted by the feud with Simon Katich in January 2009 "that wasn't".

The SCG changing room dust-up over a team song involving Hussey, if anything, is a snapshot again of how the then 27-year-old suspected the pair were undermining his captaincy.

Katich grabbed Clarke by the collar and the pair glared before kissing and making up via texts weeks later.

"Whether it's the drink or paranoia or just my personality ... I get the impression that Huss and Kato are enjoying seeing me grow agitated," he writes.

Asking a bloke who dreamt of carving up runs on whether he would axe Ponting soon after taking charge and if he was capable of including a selector's portfolio as captain must have been a daunting start.

The tabloid aspect of his career, which he describes as a "media circus" but which regrettably comes with the territory of international stardom, was primarily his break up with former modelling fiancee Lara Bingle.

It was 2010 in McLean Park, Napier. I was there to watch and interview the Australian ODI team when it suddenly dawned on me that Clarke was conspicuous in his absence at training.

"So where the hell are you?" I had asked innocently, stealing the famous words of Bingle to promote Australia tourism.

To my bewilderment, the next morning the Aussie contingent announced the then 28-year-old batsman was jetting back to Sydney to resolve issues with his then flame and the impending parting of ways.

Tabloid fabrications aside, you sympathise with a player who had to sneak away from his Bondi flat in the boot of his financial adviser/friend's car to avoid the glare of the paparazzi.

I thought he'd touch more on the Bingle saga but also appreciated the privacy to one's life over trash journalism.

The death of bosom pal Phillip Hughes in November 2014, falling victim to a bouncer while playing for NSW, is the beginning of the end of Clarke's passion for the game.

For someone who loves cricket, picking up a bat made him physically ill.

If that's not bad enough, he feels Cricket Australia are shafting him to the extent that they don't trust him anymore to make an honest appraisal on his own battered-and-bruised body.

The marriage to former high schoolmate Kyly Boldy and their child, Kelsey Lee, couldn't have come at a better time to convince him of retirement.

It is a timely glimpse through the window of Cricket Australia as the incumbent flagship team grapple with a slump in form, selector Rod Marsh resigning and batsman Adam Voges helped off the field from concussion again following a bouncer to the head in a first-class match.

It can be an intriguing read over Christmas (I read it on while holidaying in Fiji) but I'm still waiting for "Ross Taylor Unplugged" to hit the bookstores.