Melbourne, March 28;
Australia skipper Michael Clarke on Saturday announced that he will quit One-Day Internationals (ODI) after the cricket World Cup final against New Zealand here on Sunday.
“It’s the right time for me and the Australian cricket team. I was very fortunate four years ago to get the opportunity to captain this great team and that was really good preparation for me leading up to this World Cup,” Clarke said at the pre-match press conference.
The final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) would be Clarke’s 245th and final ODI. The 33-year-old said he is not confident his body will allow him to be in peak condition for the 2019 edition.
The right-hand batsman wants his successor to have a full four-year period to mould the team ahead of the next mega event, just as he has had following Ricky Ponting’s resignation four years ago after the team’s quarterfinal elimination in India.
“The next Australian captain deserves this opportunity. I don’t think it’s realistic that I’ll be fit and healthy and available to play the next World Cup. I believe it’s the right time,” Clarke said.
Clarke made his ODI debut against England at Adelaide on January 19, 2003. Thereon he played 244 ODIs, scoring 7,907 runs at an average of 44.42. The New South Wales player did not consider Sunday’s match to be any more significant because of his decision.
“It’s a special game, there’s no doubt about it, but it needs to be about the team and I want it to be about the team. It’s not emotion, it’s skill that helps you win major games and tournaments and Sunday will be no different. It’s no more special because it’s my last game,” he said.
The captain, who has struggled for continuity in ODIs due to injury, reiterated his priority was to remain a key player for Australia in Test cricket for as long as possible.
“I’m hopeful that it will prolong my Test career as well. That’s obviously a priority for me, to be successful in Tests and by walking away from ODIs, it probably gives me my best opportunity,” he said.
The departing captain had only disclosed his intentions to his family earlier. He informed Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive James Sutherland, chief selector Rod Marsh, coach Darren Lehmann and his teammates minutes before making the announcement public on Saturday.
Clarke said it had been ‘an honour and a privilege’ to lead Australia in one-day cricket. He declined to suggest a successor but acknowledged that Steve Smith, who stood in for Clarke as Test captain this summer and for one ODI, had produced some key performances batting at No.3.
Besides Smith, the other candidate for captaincy is likely to be George Bailey, Clarke’s vice-captain for this World Cup. Bailey led Australia in the opening match of the tournament but was squeezed out after Clarke’s return from his hamstring injury for the pool match against New Zealand.