Australia great Michael Clarke retired on the last Ashes tour of England, ending a remarkable batting career on a low after starting with a bang, with a century on Test debut in Bengaluru in 2004.
The World Cup-winning skipper was honoured at the Sydney Cricket Ground, his home ground, during the innings break of the final ODI on Saturday.
A lap of honour with his family was followed by a red carpet reception. Still only 34, Clarke would still have been captaincy Australia but for a persistent back problem.
Off cricket completely post-retirement, Clarke said he felt rejuvenated and is toying with the idea of dabbling in Twenty20 cricket, in this interview at the SCG. :
How has life been after retirement?
It’s been a special time for me with the birth of my child. To be with my wife and baby at home has been wonderful. I took this summer off cricket, I didn’t want to watch or play cricket, I just wanted to sit back with my family and friends and reassess at the end of the summer.
I have really enjoyed that, my body feels healthy; I am still training every day, just to stay healthy. I feel really good. Lot of people think I have played international cricket for 13 years, but I started at six years of age, so it is 28 years of cricket. To have one summer off has been fantastic.
Do you miss cricket?
There are parts of the game you always miss. I have missed the competitive spirit, competing against the opposition. But I have really enjoyed time away from cricket. Now, I am going to spend some time to work out what I am going to do, whether I am going to play T20 cricket… My body feels good and healthy. I am in a really good head space to make some decisions.
How does Australia manage the transition of captains so well?
One part of when I retired was about knowing who we were going to play against (in the season), and we had New Zealand and West Indies coming. For a new team to play in your home country is a bit easier to transition. If you were playing India in India, it would have been a lot harder. In terms of timing, lot of the players (who were) retiring (last season) had that at the back of their mind as well.
How do you look at this series from India’s point of view?
Australia has bowled probably a little bit better, even though India has batted and made 300 every game. But India lost (Mohammed) Shami at the start of the series, and he is a very good bowler. Is (Umesh) Yadav coming back from a shoulder problem? And because the wickets haven’t spun, they have not been able to play Ashwin. I think he is an amazing bowler.
Were you surprised they dropped Ashwin?
I think they picked their team on (pitch) conditions. Ashwin is a very, very good bowler in any form of the game.
It has been a tough series for Dhoni. You feel he has outlived his shelf life as limited-overs captain?
Dhoni has so much more to give to cricket. Everything is looked at closer when you are losing games, but Dhoni is a wonderful player. I was very surprised when Dhoni retired from Test cricket; I thought he would have kept playing. He is a big player and you need big players in big tournaments. The Twenty20 World Cup is round the corner.
Why have the Indian bowlers struggled on these wickets?
It has been hard, 300 versus 300. There’s been no movement, and it has been the case of one catch or one run out, one mistake. Australia has probably made fewer mistakes than India. India can still hold their heads high; they showed how good a team they are.
Surprised to see 300 plus scores every game?
It’s amazing, flat wickets, two new balls and fast outfields.
Is it owing to the T20 impact?
The IPL deserves a lot of credit, especially the way the guys start their innings in the Powerplay and go very aggressive. Because teams have been doing that in the IPL, teams are now making 10-an-over in the last 10 overs. The IPL deserves a lot of credit for introducing and growing T20 cricket. Now, you look at Big Bash League, it is like that because they have learnt from what the IPL has done and have brought it to Australia.
There are concerns over ODI cricket staying relevant. Are you concerned T20 will completely take over?
T20 cricket has helped one-day cricket and Test cricket is the pinnacle; there is room for all three.
You were part of a great rivalry with India?
I just love playing against India. Even today, doing that lap around the ground and a lot of the Indian players clapping was so respectful. Some of my fondest memories of playing are in India. That’s what I would like to do, whether I play cricket again or not I would spend a lot of time travelling to India.
I have special memories, my first Test hundred in Bangalore, then playing at Delhi and Mumbai, both are great places; so was playing the IPL for Pune.