Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Australia captain Michael Clarke has launched his own cricket academy in Sydney since he wants to help Australian cricket move in the right direction “for the next 10, 20, 30 or 40 years”.
Clarke’s academy, which is described as “a finishing school for young cricketers”, will be aimed at kids between the ages of 13 and 18.
“There’s a lot that I had no idea about when I walked onto the Australian stage,” Clarke said. “To this day I’ve never had media training. I was fortunate I went to a school where I had to wear a tie, so I had to learn how to put a tie on, but there’s guys in the current Australian team that don’t know how to do a tie up.
“I believe the playing part is about 40% of what goes with being an international sportsman these days. I think there’s a lot of stuff from the outside world, media training, speaking in front of people, presenting yourself in the right way, understanding and accepting that if you’re lucky enough to play international sport you are a role model.
“Whether you like it or not, if there’s one boy or girl who looks up to you, then you’re a role model. I think if you can learn that from a young age, you’re in a much better place than getting there and thinking, oh my god, is this what comes with it.”
The academy’s values state that “negative attitudes are banned”, and that “if you’re not exhausted both physically and mentally at the end of each day…you’re doing it wrong and we will call you on it”.
“I wish I’d had that guidance at a young age, to open my eyes to it,” Clarke said. “I guess probably after being dropped [from the Test team] I realised that a big part of why I got dropped was because my priorities changed. My preparation was no longer my No.1 priority.
“A big part of this is hopefully trying to help these kids learn from my experiences. Hopefully they don’t make the same mistakes. Hopefully they can see things earlier and clearer than what I did.”
While Clarke’s ultimate dream is to build a facility at Berrima in New South Wales, he will, for the time being, run four camps per year during the school holiday periods.
As of right now, the camps coaches include Clarke’s father Les, former Australia spinner Beau Casson and ex-Australia women’s captain Lisa Sthalekar.
Clarke also wants the youngsters to learn how to get the best out of the team and each individual as well.
“I want both boys and girls to be able to walk out of there and say ‘I’ve learnt a lot about trying to become a better person and a better cricketer’,” he said. “There’s certainly no guarantees that everybody who goes to the academy is going to go on and play at the highest level, but if we can get the best out of them individually, we’ve had an impact.”
But, as of right now, Clarke has his sights set on leading Australia to victory in their upcoming tour of the United Arab Emirates, where they will face Pakistan. If Australia win, they will once again dethrone South Africa as the top-ranked Test team.
“We always knew when we became No.1 in the world, we knew it was so close that there was an opportunity when South Africa played before us and they won that it could go back to them,” Clarke said. “I think it’s probably a really good sign of where Test cricket is at. A lot of teams are so close to each other and you have to play your best at every opportunity.
“We’ve got some tough cricket ahead of us in all formats. That’s the way it goes. I’m really excited that we were able to get to No.1. I guess what it does do is it clears our goal up very much so – we want to be the No.1 team in the world.”