Former Australian captain Michael Clarke has urged the public to rally around the remaining members of the Australian cricket team.
Speaking on Today, Clarke articulated the pressure that the team will be under, starting in tonight’s fourth Test.
”I really worry about the other eleven guys that take the field tonight in South Africa,” Clarke said.
“They’re going to have to continue to deal with [the backlash], and unfortunately in professional sport at the highest level, there’s no feeling sorry for anybody.”
“The South African fans that turn up, they’re going to give it to these eleven players in the field.”
Tim Paine will lead a new-look team out for the first time as the 46th Test captain in Australian history, and Clarke alluded to the pressure that comes with the captaincy.
“I think it’s going to be challenging for him because of his position in the team, being a wicketkeeper, being a batsman,” he said.
“I’m here to support him and I think everyone needs to.”
“He’s going to need some good leadership around him.”
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Despite the gaping hole left by Smith and Warner, the remaining squad does have some experience, with Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood all boasting significant experience. However, Clarke was quick to caution fans.
“This team really needs a lot of patience, a lot of resilience, some good leadership, and I really hope they come out and play some good cricket tonight,” Clarke said.
Clarke was effusive in his praise for both Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft, following the duo’s emotional press conferences yesterday.
“Courageous from Cameron Bancroft, a 25-year-old young man, to get up and be able to speak like that,” he said.
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“You feel for the players. You feel for their families as well.”
Unlike Smith and Bancroft, the third member of the banned trio, David Warner, opted not to have a press conference upon arrival in Australia, a move criticised by some.
However, Clarke said that Warner’s decision to not speak immediately was completely understandable, and even suggested that Smith and Bancroft may have been better served by being given some space before speaking.
The fourth and final Test of an unforgettable series against South Africa gets underway tonight from Johannesburg.