SYDNEY – Aussies don’t much care for pretty boy captains.
Nanjing Night Net

They prefer their national cricket teams to be led by square-jawed men with hard heads and harder hearts.

Michael Clarke has suffered from perceptions that he is of the former species.

Flashy sports cars in his younger days may not have helped.

The same could be said of his engagement to a well-known model and the fact he was groomed for the captaincy from such a young age.

Many thought he had been given an armchair ride to the second highest office in the land, notwithstanding all the hard graft he put in since his boyhood in Sydney’s unfashionable western suburbs.

If Clarke changes these perceptions, the Sydney Test of 2012 will go down as the turning point.

It’s amazing what a difference a few hundred runs can make – 329 not out, to be precise.

Fans love success.

Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Mark Taylor gave it to them by the bucketload, Waugh going one better by insisting on the “mental disintegration” of opponents as well.

But success isn’t a prerequisite for veneration, as a doughty Allan Border showed.

“Captain grumpy” proved, too, that it’s OK to let your displeasure be known. As long as you’re fair dinkum.

Clarke hasn’t been the most popular figure in the dressing room, as his heated bust-up with Simon Katich attests.

Don Bradman wasn’t universally popular in the sheds, either, but his untouchability as a performer made that irrelevant.

Perhaps Clarke is taking a lesson from that.

He said earning the public’s respect was all he ever wanted.

“If people dislike me that’s life, that’s the way it is,” he said.

“The most important thing for me, especially being Australian captain, is you want your home fans to respect you.”

Clarke said Ponting had taught him how important it was for a captain to “stand up on the field and lead from the front”.

In other words, to score runs.

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