Captain of Australia and blessed with a face that could launch a thousand brands, it’s safe to say Michael Clarke is rolling in cash, $2.5 million a year, according to a Forbes list of the world’s richest cricketers. Growing up in the working class Western Suburbs of Sydney, it wasn’t always so.
Before he had made his Test debut (and scored a century on debut), Clarke was selected to tour England for an Australian youth team. The expenses of a summer touring England almost forced him to skip the career-building tour, before intervention from friends and family paved the way for him to pursue his dreams.
When Clarke opted out of the lucrative Indian Premier League, and an offer that would have been over $1 million, to play club cricket for Western Suburbs District Cricket Club (WSDCC), many were puzzled. Western Suburbs DCC cricket manager David O’Neil wasn’t one of them.
Speaking to HT, O’Neil recalled the incident, when Clarke’s club, friends and family came together to help him further his cricket ambitions. “Michael was picked to tour England with an Australian youth team, but was apprehensive of going because of the money that would be required,” said O’Neil.
Michael’s parents, Les and Deb Clarke, and elder sister Leann knew how much the sport meant to him. To make sure he wasn’t short on cash, or confidence for that matter, they organised a fundraiser at home. On the guest list were close friends, and also members from the club. They generated enough cash for young Clarke to follow his dreams.
“It was a quiet affair, just 30-odd people, who came to the Clarke residence. The money wasn’t that much but Michael was touched by the gesture. He’s the sort of bloke who never forgets where he comes from, and to this day he remembers and is thankful for the contributions of those who were there for him in his hour of need,” said O’Neil.
When Clarke made his Test debut as a 23-year-old in a team whose average age at the time was 32, it hardly came as a surprise that he was given the sobriquet ‘Pup’ by the top dogs in the team. Of course, from the day when he started playing club cricket, he was always punching above his weight. “He joined the Western Suburbs DCC when he was 13 and immediately was playing against 16-year-olds. Even in those early days you could see the bite and aggression that you see today. He was never afraid of a battle, even against guys twice his size,” recalled O’Neil.
Captaining Australia may not give him much time to turn out for his club, but whenever he gets the opportunity he makes the most of it. “He doesn’t play that much because of his international commitments, but when he does he shows his class. He gets double hundreds and hundreds whenever he turns out for us these days.”