Opinion: ‘Tis not just a scratch, Pup

Blog Opinion

You'll recall that there's a very famous Monty Python skit, for those who are au fait with such humour, where King Arthur comes across the Black Knight, who refuses to let the king's army cross the bridge and a sword fight ensues.

Arthur immediately gets the upper hand, removing the Black Knight's arm, but the latter is undaunted, saying: "'Tis but a scratch!" Arthur, incredulous, replies: "A scratch?  Your arm's off!" and the delusional Knight says, "No, it isn't."

And so they go, until Arthur has removed the Knight's other arm and both his legs, but still the Knight will not give up, even as Arthur and his army walk away, over the bridge, leaving him behind as a bloody head and torso.

"Just a flesh wound! I am invincible! You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what's coming to you. I'll bite your legs off!"

And so it is with Michael Clarke and his insistence on staying in the ODI side. "GEORGE BAILEY SHALL NOT PASS! 'Tis but a scratch, my hamstrings are fine, nothing wrong at all! Fight me, damn it!"

Clarke's refusal to retire from the format before the World Cup is understandable from an emotional standpoint, and from a cricketing one too, given it's far too late now. If he was going to hand over the job to Bailey, it should have been after the tour to South Africa in March.

But now the Aussies are stuck with a legless, but bravely raging, captain, while the rest of the side have crossed the bridge on their way to the ICC event.

Clarke has played just six of the 16 ODIs his side have contested this year, with one half ton. So how many of those players, despite what they tell the media, even think of him as the one-day skipper anymore?

Sure, he's the team's leader overall, but it must be tough for young lads like Josh Hazlewood not to look to Bailey when wearing pajama kit.

Former Aussie skipper Allan Border, second only to Graeme Smith as the longest-serving captain in world cricket, has urged Clarke to just let it go. Turn away and slam the door. Is it hurting the side that they can't move on properly, with Bailey at the helm?

It would be another story if this was two years ago, when Clarke was the only player between the team and sub-200 scores. He was in superlative form, but many a big knock went in vain as the rest of the batting line up failed.

But now Aaron Finch and David Warner have formed a formidable opening pairing, Steve Smith is finding himself compared to AB de Villiers, and Mitchell Marsh has burst into the side with impressive strokeplay. It's not down to Pup anymore.

An this leads one to ponder the Test side. Clarke has missed very, very little five-day cricket in his career, but now he's reaching the point where even that is being put at risk. His absence in that line up will definitely be felt, as we'll likely see in Brisbane.

So for the Knight to battle on ("Look, you stupid bastard, you've got no arms left."…"All right; we'll call it a draw.") is the opposite of valiant. The braver, funkier thing would be to concede defeat and walk away, to fight another day in whites where his talent is truly needed.

Lindsay du Plessis

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