Michael Clarke picked up his first bat at the tender age of six and ‘Pup’ has been in love with the great game of cricket ever since. He talks to Essential Kids about his road to the top, his plans for the future and why he thinks cricket is a great sport for every Aussie kid to play.
The 31-year-old cricket captain still remembers the admiration he felt as he watched the professional cricketers of his youth.
“Every kid growing up has their favourite sporting team and I guess mine, as a kid, was the Australian Cricket team. I wanted to be just like those guys,” says Michael Clarke.
But it wasn’t until he was in his mid-teens that he really started to imagine that dream could become a reality.
“When I was about fifteen or sixteen I made a conscious effort to do everything I possibly could to give myself a chance at representing Australia,” he says.
I think that being an athlete these days, whether you like it or not you’re a role model for kids and they look up to you.
His determination paid off and by the time he was 18-years-old he was chosen to represent New South Wales in the 1999-2000 Sheffield Shield. Just four short years later he faced off against India in the 2004 Test match for his country.
While he has undoubtedly had a successful career, Clarke is no stranger to the challenges and set-backs of the game. But no matter how tough the road has become at times, he has never been tempted to put down his bat for good.
“I have never thought about quitting as such but there have certainly been some tough times throughout my career where I have been dropped and found it hard to perform,” he says.
After Clarke’s stellar Test match debut in 2004 he struggled to back up that performance the following year. His poor form during the 2005 Ashes series combined with his failure to score a Test century for over a year saw him dropped from the Test team.
“You always question if you’re training hard enough, if you’re doing the right training, if you’re ticking every box to make sure you have success. I had to have a look at my game and go back and work even harder to be able to turn that around,” he says.
But Pup’s hard work paid off and in 2006 he was once again called up to represent Australia, regaining his spot on the team for the South Africa Tour. By the end of that year his stand-out performance in the Ashes Tests had cemented his position in the team.
He went on to be chosen as the 43rd Test Australian cricket captain in 2011, a position that Clarke says is an “honour and a privilege”. While he admits the captaincy is not without its challenges, he is adamant the rewards make it worth the effort.
“When you come together as a team and everything falls into place and you get the success and the outcome that you trained so hard for, I think that is what keeps bringing me back to cricket,” he says.
Clarke is very aware that his success comes with the responsibility of setting a good example for the next generation of cricket-loving kids.
“I think that being an athlete these days, whether you like it or not you’re a role model for kids and they look up to you,” he says.
His work as a MILO ambassador these past four years has helped him to have a positive influence on his young fans by encouraging them to get active and healthy.
“I would love to see kids get out there and be more active and play sport and I think if I can meet some kids and inspire them to do that, whether it is in cricket or not, I am happy to be able to help.”
While he is quick to point out that getting to the top of his sport is no easy task if your kids are passionate about taking on the challenge he has a few words of advice to offer them.
“You’ve got to love the game and enjoy what you do, there’s no doubt about it and you have to accept that there are going to be some hard times. To get to the top it is a tough road but keep hanging in there and be willing to do the work.
“It is a really good feeling when you know you are doing everything you can to achieve your goal. I guess that is all I hope for any kid. Whether they are playing cricket or another sport, I’d love to see them really enjoy what they do and have a real good crack at it. Give it their best shot,” he says.
In May this year Clarke married his model girlfriend Kyly Boldy in the Blue Mountains in front of family. The pair, who never publicly announced their engagement, had been friends since their school days in Sydney and started dating in early 2011.
While Clarke is happy to talk about his career he remains tight-lipped about his personal life and laughs off questions about starting a family.
“I’m just concentrating on trying to help this Australian cricket team have as much success as possible and I can worry about that [babies] in the future.”
Kyly was equally as coy in her recent interview with Kate Waterhouse for the Sydney Morning Herald. When asked the same question she simply responded with an outraged laugh and "time will tell".
Perhaps it won’t be too long before Clarke has some of his own kids to inspire and recruit to the game.
Do you have a child aged 5-12 years that loves Cricket? Tell us who their Australian cricket hero is and you could win a money can't buy experience at the Vodafone Test Match in your city*. Entries close 4pm AEDST on 15.11.2012