Madonna King: More poor form that’s just not cricket

The baggy green has been through the wash one too many times, Madonna King writes.

The baggy green has been through the wash one too many times, Madonna King writes. Photo: AAP/TND

Imagine Don Bradman, caught out in a park late at night, shirt off and being slapped for alleged cheating.

Or Richie Benaud, limping away from a crowd of onlookers after being abused for allegedly playing up on his partner.

Wearing the baggy green, as cricket captain, has always held a special place in Australia; a position often referred to as the post above prime minister.

And yet, this week, there was a stunning reminder of how that baggy green has been through the wash one too many times, in recent years.

Steve Smith and a cheating scandal. Tim Paine and his off-field behaviour.

And now Michael Clarke. Pup, now 41. Shirtless and brawling in a Noosa park, copping a mouthful of abuse from his girlfriend and Karl Stefanovic’s sister-in-law Jade Yarbrough.

Of course, it’s not the only celebrity scandal that has enveloped Clarke, the captain of the Australian cricket team between 2011 and 2015.

But this surely writes his epitaph as an Australian idol.

Michael Clarke and Jade Yarbrough in November. Photo: Getty

A salutary lesson

It’s a salutary lesson in how one bad decision, or a minute or two of unscripted bad behaviour, can change trajectories – and public opinion.

A politician having an affair. A corporate board failing to ask that one crucial question. A drunken dive off a bridge into murky water.

Our headlines are full of them; some carrying bigger consequences than others. And that has always been the case.

But what’s different now is those unguarded moments are revealed. And invariably, in modern times, it will be with the help of a camera and social media.

Did Michael Clarke, and this troublesome co-brawler Karl Stefanovic, think for a moment their tawdry clash wouldn’t be captured by the group of onlookers who gathered to watch?

Did either of them think, for a moment, that mobile phone footage wouldn’t be uploaded in minutes? Is this boys being boys?

Because that doesn’t wash in 2023.

Just imagine if this was Tracy Grimshaw and Ash Barty, belting it out last night after dinner and drinks. It’s not possible, is it?

Because as much as we say equality reigns on our television screens and our sporting teams and even in Noosa parks after dark, it’s simply not true.

Tired toddlers in a sandpit

And that’s because it would be so damn unlikely to find two prominent women, who had reached the absolute top of their industries, carrying on like tired toddlers in a sandpit.

For Stefanovic, it just adds another line to the long list of bad teenage behaviour, that heads the resume of the 48-year-old father’s public career.

But the cost is probably higher for Clarke, who represented Australia in 115 Test matches, and whose name doesn’t sit easily on a leadership board that also includes the names of Ian Chappell, Bill Woodfull, Ricky Ponting and Alan Border.

We begrudgingly forgave Steve Smith, perhaps; the tears, the fulsome apology, the work he put into charities and junior cricket organisations to show his remorse.

But Pup? He might have done his dash because it’s hard to see how he can go from Australian cricket captain, leading our national game, to shirtless brawler in a park after dark.

One minute. One bad decision. Perhaps, one transgression. But what’s certain in 2023, is that with one click of a button, we all know about it.

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