DUBAI // Now that Michael Clarke is no longer one half of the "Australian Posh and Becks", perhaps he will start to get some of the recognition he deserves from the nation's cricket supporters. That is the hope of Dean Jones, the former Australia batsman, who is backing the troubled middle-order batsman to emerge a stronger player for his recent off-field tribulations.
Clarke returned to the back pages from the gossip columns when he made a satisfying century in the first Test of the Chappell-Hadlee Series in New Zealand last week. The New South Wales batsman had to rely on a late flight from Australia to make the start of the game, having returned home to deal with a media storm surrounding his fiancee, Lara Bingle. Their high-profile relationship has since ended.
"Michael Clarke has been given a bad rap for a few years now," said Jones. "He was engaged to the most beautiful girl. He gave her an Aston Martin, an A$200,000 (Dh670,000) ring and I think that's cool. He was in love with the girl, so that is fine. "People haven't gravitated to him, for whatever reason. There are a lot of Australian supporters who don't judge him properly. Just because he has bought his fiancee an Aston Martin, and he doesn't hit the big sixes or play the same way as an Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden or a Ricky Ponting, he hasn't got cred.
"This guy went through an ugly time in his life, and he has handled it with dignity. To then come out and punch a hundred, under a bit of pressure - this guy deserves respect. People need to get off his back. "He has 14 Test hundreds. He averages over 50. Is he a future Australia captain? By gee, he is. I think he has been given a hard time by a lot of people, and now he has got through it. "Every player worth their salt has come through some sort of adversity, and I reckon he has handled it really well."
Jones, in the Emirates for the Foster's Legends of Cricket dinner, warned that players have to be aware they forgo much of their right to privacy because of the remuneration they get for playing in the modern era. "Players now are dressed up as superstars, compared to my time when we just played," he said. "Now it is completely full on. You have to be good on the ground as well as off it, you are judged everywhere you go.
"When you sign the dotted line you know what you are getting into. You are getting the big bucks, and with that comes responsibility. "They were our Posh and Becks couple before this happened. He had media parking outside his house a year ago, waiting for them to show. "He is from New South Wales, and I have always said he is good enough to be a Victorian, this kid. I rate him." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org