Cricket is a fickle game. Michael Clarke, who was holding Australia's fifth World Cup trophy few months ago, was fighting tears post the fourth Ashes Test. While the pain of being humiliated in an Ashes series could have been the reason behind his pain, Pup became emotional as he had let his fans down and had to bid farewell to his beloved sport.
A team, which failed to show up in the previous Ashes series, had humiliated the Aussies much to the delight of the local fans.
Australia were the favourites to win this year's Ashes. There was no way England could have dismantled them the way they did. After losing the first Test, Australia bounced back at Lord's with a massive 405-run win, but Clarke hardly played a role in it. He scored 39 runs in both innings at Lord's and just 117 from eight innings before Australia meekly surrendered the urn to their biggest rivals.
The retirement didn't come as a surprise for the cricketing fraternity, as Clarke's form had been under the scanner for quite some time. One of the most technically sound batsman once upon a time, the 34-year-old looked a mere shadow of himself in the Ashes, where every time he came to bat, the spectators and even the viewers could sense his nervousness.
His feet remained glued and instead of steadying the ship with a patient approach, Clarke was seen hitting rash shots. The rough patch wasn't limited just to the Ashes, as in the last 31 innings, he crossed 50 just twice. Even though he scored centuries on those two occasions, Clarke was nowhere close to the batsman he once used to be.
Australia have been doing well in Tests in the last couple of years with likes of Mitchell Johnson, Steve Smith, David Warner and Chris Rogers being major contributors. But Clarke hardly made the headlines whenever the Kangaroos got the better of an opponent.
It is difficult to decipher the reason behind his pathetic form in the last one and a half years. While physical fitness could be a one aspect (considering the back problem which troubled him quite a lot during this period), it also has to do with something mentally, since Clarke knew he was playing alongside Steve Smith – the run-machine whose career has witnessed an incredible purple patch since the beginning of 2014 in whites (2125 runs from 17 Tests at an average of 78).
Clarke was supposed to lead Australia at least for a couple of more years. For those who have forgotten, in 2012, he scored 1595 runs, a period where he achieved a unique feat of becoming the first batsman to slam four double tons in one calendar year. A player of his caliber, deserved to be part of the 10,000-run club, but unfortunately, he stands at the 19th position in the list of highest run scorers.
There was a slight possibility of him extending his Test career had he played a few good knocks in Ashes 2015. While a 3-2 defeat looks a competitive one for the Aussies, Clarke knew he had no role to play in it and in fact was lucky to have played and captained the team for the entire series.
Australia, are not a side which will carry a cricketer who has become a baggage, no matter how legendary, for more than a few series.
Ricky Ponting had just one bad series against South Africa where he contributed 32 runs from five innings, and that was the end of one of the most decorated careers in cricket. The eight centuries he had against the same opponent, was just a part of history then.
Clarke had announced retirement from the colored jersey (not that he was setting it ablaze) to extend his career in whites. Post their demolition of England in the last Ashes series, Clarke was expected to finally have a series win against England, on their home ground. The retirement would have been the last thing on his mind.
Cricket remains a fickle game.