Tributes have been paid to Michael Clarke after the Australian captain announced the upcoming fifth Ashes match at the Oval will be his last as a Test cricketer.
The 34-year-old, who has overseen a disastrous tour of England amid a personal slump in form with the bat, had stated before the fourth Test at Trent Bridge that he intended to play on.
But his side’s historic capitulation to Alistair Cook’s men in Nottingham, which handed the series to England 3-1 with a game in hand, forced Clarke to reconsider.
“I want to play the last Test at the Oval and give it one more crack,” he said after the loss on Saturday.
“The time is right. You never want to walk away. My performances over the past 12 months have not been acceptable to me.
“I’ll take so many memories away. I’m looking forward to sitting and cheering the boys on. It’s the right time,” he said.
The Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott – said to have the second most difficult job in the country, after Clarke’s – paid tribute to “a great player and leader”.
“He’s had a great innings as captain,” Abbott told the Nine Network on Sunday.
“I think that he has been a great role model, particularly last year with the tragedy over Phillip Hughes.”
Close friend Shane Warne told the Nine Network it was the right time for Clarke to go.
“I presented him with his first Test cap in Bangalore and to watch him develop into an amazing leader and watch the way he led the Australian team – the way he led the Australian team was fun to watch,” Warne said.
“Clarke played the way we like cricket to be played. To me he has been outstanding.”
The chairman of Cricket Australia, Wally Edwards, said Clarke had been earmarked as “a very special talent” since he made a century on debut in Bangalore in 2004.
“Throughout his captaincy he has been a thoroughly professional player, a brave and daring leader who has given his all for our country,” Edwards said.
“There have been many great achievements throughout his cricketing journey but two in particular really put a stamp on his captaincy. Bruised and battered, his courageous hundred against South Africa at Cape Town last year was instrumental in Australia defeating the Proteas and regaining the number one Test ranking. It was an inspirational performance and I was lucky enough to be there to see it.
“Then of course his innings against India in Adelaide last summer stands as one of the most memorable and emotional episodes in the history of Australian sport. His leadership throughout that tragic time was a mark of his character,” he said.
The former England captain Michael Vaughan told the BBC he had sensed the end coming.
“His dismissals have been poor,” he said. “His mind is somewhere else. Quality players don’t have that many failures. His mind is not on that red ball. He has probably been thinking of this.”
Clarke said on Saturday that the decision to retire was his alone, and not forced by the prospect of being dropped before the fifth and final Test in London, starting on 20 August.
“Selectors did not speak to me at all about being dropped, or standing down or retiring,” he said.
“I made the decision late last night with my beautiful wife and spoke to my family and then this morning I had a conversation with Darren Lehmann and Rod Marsh and told them what I was going to do and they were both extremely respectful and thankful for what I’ve given Australian cricket.”
He endorsed captain-in-waiting Steve Smith as his replacement. “I think Smithy is ready,” Clarke said.
“That will be decided by the selectors. Smithy had the opportunity through the Australian summer and showed that he’s going to make a good captain and only time will tell, but I’ve certainly got faith in him I believe in him and I believe in the Australian team,” he said.
“I think we have a lot of talent whether it be in this change room or in the Australian system coming through. I think we need to be patient, there’s no doubt about it. Especially if we lose a few guys in one go.”
This article was written by Michael Safi in Sydney and Ali Martin at Trent Bridge, for theguardian.com on Sunday 9th August 2015 04.11 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010