Michael Clarke (left) and Shane Warne © Getty Images
Michael Clarke (left) and Shane Warne © Getty Images

Shane Warne on Friday said in his blog that Australia’s outgoing skipper Michael Clarke has been their best captain since Mark Taylor. Warne, who has been a strong support for the troubled Clarke, has written that he ‘loves the guy’ and there is not much respect for how much hard work the cricketer has done throughout his career. Clarke is captaining Australia in his final Test — the 115th of his career — and will be retiring from international cricket at the end of the ongoing Ashes 2015. ALSO READ: Michael Clarke lived by the sword and died by it

Warne wrote in his blog, “Well I believe Pup is the best captain since Mark Taylor, despite the last couple of Ashes Tests where things really fell apart around him and he just didn’t have enough left to dig his team out of the ditch.”

Warne said that the defeat in the Ashes 2015 was majorly because of the team not playing to its potential. “I reckon, though, the cattle at his disposal this Ashes tour didn’t perform very well, and you have to say well played England. Of course there are some good players in the Australian side. They will learn a lot from this series.” ALSO READ: Michael Clarke’s shocking retirement will make Australia poorer

He continued, “Let’s face it – I love the guy. As a cricketer, as a captain, as a bloke and as a friend, I don’t have a bad word to say about Michael Clarke. I played with Pup in the Aussie team for a few years at the start of his Test career and the end of mine, and it didn’t take long – one innings of 151 in his first Test, against India in Bangalore, in fact – to convince me that someone very special had arrived on the scene. He had a monster series against the Indians, even taking 6-9 in one innings with his left-arm tweakers. We won that series 2-1, the first time the Aussies had left India with the bikkies for 35-odd years, and for a young bloke of 23 in his first series to play such an important role against that opposition in those conditions was enormous.”

Warne praised Clarke’s attitude and said that it was his determination that was the reason behind the success. “It wasn’t just his figures, or even how he got them, that drew me to Michael.  It wasn’t even that he was, like me, a bloke from the ‘burbs who wouldn’t know what a silver spoon was, let alone carry one around in his mouth. It was that his determination which matched his talent, and his will to learn, and to win, that was so obvious,” Warne wrote. ALSO READ: Is Alastair Cook’s world any better than Michael Clarke’s?

He continued, “He was going to need it too. Aussie cricket is notoriously tough on young champs coming through the ranks, and only a year or so later he was out of the Test team after a run of outs. You have to remember that Greg Chappell spent a while in the wilderness after his huge start back in the day, and even the Immortal Don was dropped after his first Test.”

The legendary spinner termed Clarke’s career as ‘great’ and there is no need to establish that with the sheer numbers that the outgoing cricketer produced. “Once he was back in the side and established, though, Pup’s career is a truly great one. I don’t need to regurgitate the figures, the centuries, the double and triple centuries, the awards and honours. Neither do I have to make excuses for this tour when Pup’s output has been disappointing, because every top-grade cricketer knows there’s a Sword of Damocles hanging over his hand/eye co-ordination (or his shoulder, wrist and/or fingers if he’s a spinner), and if you stick around long enough, the string it’s hanging from is going to snap,” Warne expressed.

“For Pup, though, the captaincy brought some real challenges; some of them have been happening since Test cricket began, but others have a particularly 21st century flavour. We’ve had a long line of great, successful Aussie captains since Allan Border picked us up out of the doldrums 30 years back. AB himself, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting’s records were all well in the positive, and they saw off all their challengers, the Poms and the Windies, India and South Africa, during their tenures,” Warne added.

Clarke had some serious fitness issues to tackle throughout his career and Warne said that people do not appreciate how disciplined he has been. “Pup’s had some tough personal hands to play as well. He’s dealt with a really serious back condition since he was in his teens, and I don’t believe people appreciate how disciplined he’s been, or how much power he has shown, to get through. Sometimes when he’s pushed himself too far, he’s copped criticism for it; sometimes, when he’s laughed off the shape he has been in, he’s been criticized for that as well. You can’t win,” Warne wrote.

The death of Phil Hughes late last year shattered Clarke, who received praise from all corners for the way he handled it. “Then there was the death of his great mate – almost his little brother, some say, Phil Hughes, playing in the game both of them loved. It’s hard for anybody outside that tight circle of Phil’s family and mates to understand how a tragedy like this affects you, but you don’t need binoculars to see that Pup was completely devastated, or admire how superbly he handled himself, as the Australian captain and a man through it all,” Warne said.

Warne concluded by saying, “Of course, he had to do this under the glare of the 24/7 on-and-off field media spotlight, and so often the ups and downs of an ordinary guy trying his best as did any scrap of disagreement on the field, in the shed or on the street he got involved in. Well I say his critics should look at the scoreboard, look at his personal record, and look at Michael Clarke the man, and suck it up. I’m proud of him, and I’ll always be proud to call him a mate!”