Michael Clarke's Cricket Academy.
by Owen Zupp
by Owen Zupp
....and thanks for the great support of the 'Why Cricket Matters' blog so far!
Today the news has broken that the Australian cricket captain, Michael Clarke, is poised to establish a cricket academy in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. A mere stone's throw from Sir Donald Bradman's hometown of Bowral. This is tremendous news on a number of grounds.
Firstly, there can never be enough facilities provided for the youth of any nation, be they sporting, for the arts or academic in nature. These young people represent a country's greatest natural resource, despite what mining advertisements may say.
Secondly, I strongly suspect that this is no whimsical fantasy. Michael Clarke's parents have an established track record managing sporting facilities and bring valuable experience and expertise into the equation. Combined with the very marketable brand that is 'Michael Clarke', any sporting entity with such pedigree has a very substantial base to build upon.
Thirdly, the heritage of cricket in the Southern Highlands is strong. Sir Donald Bradman moved here at two years of age and honed his skills on the ground that today bears his name. The same ground on whose boundary fence stands the wonderful "International Cricket Hall of Fame (ICHOF)" that features the Bradman Gallery Click Here to Visit the ICHOF. This fantastic facility will be the subject of its own blog in the very near future.
However, beyond the base facts of Michael Clarke's Cricket Academy venture lies a very important message; one of re-investing into the game of cricket. Now people will want to focus on the dollar value of the Berrima property and cynics will seek out some ulterior motive. The fact remains that Michael Clarke could have had a financial adviser direct the funds into a tax-efficient share portfolio; but he didn't! He re-invested into the game of cricket, so save the cynicism and give credit where credit is due.
To my best recollection, I first briefly met Michael Clarke when he made an appearance at a youth cricket coaching camp at which I was one of the coaches. He may have been in the NSW team at the time, but certainly not in the Australian national side. Even then he was giving up his time to speak to the next generation of cricketers and he connected with them effortlessly.
The next time I saw Michael Clarke was at the rear of the Sydney Cricket Ground Member's Stand during the Test Match versus India this year. It was the morning before he was to resume batting and was on the verge of a triple century. He looked very fit and very composed as he fielded a few questions from various folks before disappearing into the change-rooms and readying to create SCG history.
It was Jane McGrath Day at the Test Match and my wife and I took our seats amidst the sea of pink that has become synonymous with the celebration of Jane's amazing life. Out in the middle Clarke passed the triple century and stood on the verge of Sir Donald Bradman's mark, but declared the innings closed before he stepped through the doorway. Days later as I walked through the galleries of the International Cricket Hall of Fame, there was a pair of Michael Clarke's batting gloves from that record-breaking innings. They weren't up for auction, or stashed away to accrue in value, they were at the heart of Australian cricket's home and there for all to see.
There was no fanfare about Michael Clarke's contribution to the ICHOF's display, but it was yet another indication of the Australian Captain's respect for the game and its history, just as when he relinquished his helmet to don a Baggy Green cap the day he scored his maiden Test century. Now it's 'hats off' to Michael Clarke for proposing to establish a cricket academy for the next generation. Undoubtedly there is a lot of ground-work to be laid and details to be finalised, however, the intent should be applauded for what it is. A great of the modern game, preserving that game for those who will take his place.
Well done Michael.