Michael Clarke says he is paid to play cricket for Australia and wouldn't change a thing about his life as he is enjoying both his game as well as life outside of it.
"With my life outside of cricket, I've had to accept there will be things said about me that I might not always agree with or like," Australia's vice captain said on the eve of the first Test against South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.
Clarke says has never met the people who say or write a whole lot of things about him and wants know how they can judge his personality. But it doesn't matter anymore, he says, though three years ago it would have bugged him.
"All I can say now is that I just wouldn't change a thing about my life. I love playing cricket for Australia, I love being in the relationship I'm in, and I'm just really enjoying my life," he was quoted as saying in a freewheeling interview to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Some have said Clarke was the villain in his scuffle with Simon Katich following the Sydney Test. The criticism became personal. He was accused of being too cosy with his partner at the Allan Border Medal presentation night and also plotting to take the captaincy off Ricky Ponting. He is made out to be a selfish player who doesn't understand the team mentality. He was also criticised for driving a swish car in this economic crisis.
"If I'm praised or if I'm criticised, it's my job to try to keep going," Clarke said. "I'm paid to play cricket for Australia, and I take that seriously.
"Some people are going to like me and some people aren't, I guess. Katto and I, we don't know how many times we have to say it -- we're fine. I'm looking forward to spending as much time as I can in the middle with him because he's batting absolutely brilliantly at the moment."
Clarke doesn't drink beer and he is particular about what he eats.
"I don't drink beer, I've never drunk beer in my life, I don't feel uncomfortable about it at all. If all the boys are having a beer, I can have a glass of wine, whatever. Have a soft drink. We're all very different. But I think that's the strength of the Australian team, that you allow everyone to be different people. You can't change a person and you shouldn't try to.
"I was lucky when I first came into the team five years ago, I built a lot of friendships with the older guys who always made me feel comfortable and let me be the person I wanted to be. As vice captain now, I'm trying to be the same with the guys coming in. If you're different, if you don't drink alcohol, if you don't want to go out, you really don't have to."
His critics had gone silent when he was the only batsman who stood up to the South Africa's furious pace attack, averaging 76.6 while all others fell below 50. Or, for that matter when Ponting said it was Clarke's idea that the Australian team should visit the survivors of the Victorian bushfires.
Clarke scored a century on debut, 151 in India and now at 27 he is the vice captain because Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath, Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden have all retired.
He has already won his second Allan Border Medal this season and climbed to No.3 on the world Test batting rankings. He's the mentor to the inexperienced players still in their Test nappies.
"When I played my first Test, I was fearless," he said. "I had nothing to lose. I was so happy I was making my debut, receiving my baggy green cap. It didn't matter who was bowling, I couldn't wait. I see it as a positive. All these guys in their first few Test matches are just going to go crazy. It doesn't matter how many wickets Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Makhaya Ntini have, you're that excited to be out there, it's such a magic moment for you, it doesn't matter who's bowling.
"Keep performing individually and as a team, keep enjoying the game, keep enjoying being around mates, and the results will come.
"We play the greatest game in the world, and we play it with a great bunch of blokes. That's what Warnie always said to me. No matter what happens -- win, lose or draw -- remember why you started playing the game; to enjoy it. As a kid, there's no money, no fame, you just played the game because you loved it. Nothing has changed for me."