MELBOURNE // Michael Clarke has announced the World Cup final against New Zealand will be his final one-day international for Australia.
The captain, 33, said he wants to carry on leading the side in Test cricket but does not believe he will be fit to play the next World Cup in four years’ time, so he is retiring from ODIs.
The timing of his public announcement was curious, though. He suggested the final is a “special game” and that “it needs to be about the team”.
Whether his decision to announce his retirement on the eve of the game, rather than after, is going to aid that process is questionable.
“It’s a special game, no doubt about it, but it needs to be about the team and I want it to be about the team,” Clarke said.
“I just said it to my teammates then. And I’ve been the one to come out and say, it’s not emotion, it’s skill that helps you win major games and major tournaments, and tomorrow will be no different.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for every single player in that change room to walk out onto the MCG in a World Cup final. It’s a very special event.
“It’s no more special because it’s my last game. It’s about timing for me, and I think now is the right time to walk away from the one-day game.”
Clarke said he had made his decision, in discussion with his wife Kyly, after the semi-final win over India in Sydney on Thursday night.
He relayed that to James Sutherland, the chief executive of Cricket Australia, and the national selectors an hour before announcing it at the pre-final news conference. He said he had told his teammates of the news 10 minutes before the same briefing.
It must have been a brief chat, seeing as he had a photocall with Brendon McCullum, his opposite number, alongside the World Cup trophy on the outfield at the Melbourne Cricket Ground at about the same time.
The two men are renowned for being arguably the most aggressive on-field captains in the game, yet the embrace they shared was a friendly one. They spoke briefly together and at one point had an arm around each other’s shoulders.
Clarke said their already close relationship was accentuated by McCullum’s response to the death of Phil Hughes in November.
“The main message from both of us was we wish each other all the best,” Clarke said.
“I have a great relationship with Brendon. 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. But it was more about wishing each other all the best.”
McCullum has won widespread acclaim for the way he has led New Zealand at this World Cup.
He denied the suggestion the final will be a battle between the two captains, though, pointing out there are 20 other players who will have a say in the outcome.
“I don’t think it is Michael Clarke versus me,” McCullum said. “I think it’s Australia versus New Zealand. And I’m more than happy with the horse that we’ve got and the tactics we’re going to employ.
“It doesn’t guarantee us success, but I think the game we’ve got is going to make us hard to beat.
“Innovation and instinct can only come from a place of hard work, as well. We’ve got to earn the right to be able to be as aggressive as we want to be, and I guess Australia will be no different.”
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