Look, for me, it’s time to talk about the 36-year-old man named Pup [OTT laughter off-mic]…
Hits & misses
Clarke is a tricky one. Public opinion often seems stacked against him, though he does have more self-awareness than most of the Wide World of Sports team, recently joking about viewers muting the coverage when he comes on.
Still early days for Clarke in the comm box. Since his introduction to Nine, he seems to oscillate between goofball and slick wannabe statesman. He impressed in some initial guest stints but that bump of fresh insight is fading the longer he’s retired.
The problem is that Australia largely decided they were fed up with him right when Nine expected us to embrace the new addition. Going from embattled, out-of-form captain one minute to energetic new kid on the punditry block the next is a polar shift. That viewers failed to get onboard is no surprise.
For a guy desperate to prove he doesn’t court publicity, he may have been better served taking time off between his playing and commentary stints. Resisting the lure of the WWOS circle jerk also would have helped. He need only look to Ricky Ponting for the blueprint on how to make a successful and respectable transition to commentary.
With Clarke, his overly deliberate delivery draws attention to what grates about him ‒ that he’s constantly worried about his image. It makes Nine’s cricket coverage feel like a dull episode of Sesame Street at times. Also prone to a good ‘look, for me’ or ‘for mine’, which is always a solid entry on the sports pundit bingo card.
His tone verges on condescending, falling into the Mark Taylor trap of talking down to the audience in an effort to be understood by first-time viewers. Sure, there are plenty of kids watching, but you have to respect them enough to keep up.
Also guilty of Nine’s trademark guffawing from the back of the box. Suffered a bad case of the Jimmy Fallons last year, laughing uncontrollably in the presence of his senior colleagues, forgetting there was an audience out there somewhere, patiently waiting for him to pull himself together. At least the mantle of Most Giggly Boy at Nine has now been claimed by the unbearable Kevin Pietersen.
Clarke still has plenty of time and potential to improve, but he’ll find it tough going in the complacent, insular and commercially-driven environs of Nine.
View from the stands
Runs on the board?
You can’t really question Clarke’s on-field pedigree. You don’t average 49 with the bat across 115 Tests without some serious ticker. Even better when you consider he was plagued by chronic back problems. After bursting onto the international scene as a precocious youngster, he went on to bridge the eras of Ponting and Steve Smith with some genuine brilliance of his own. He also looked the part as a proactive captain. If only he could find a way to lead WWOS out of their malignant mire.