Oh to be top of the Pups
A funny thing happened on Thursday at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Aussie sport won ... and lost.
When Michael Clarke declared his team's first innings against India done and dusted at 659 for 4 the crowd applauded his heroic knock of 329 not out as he walked off the field. They cheered their skipper after he assured the Baggy Greens victory in the second test. And so they should.
But while thousands rose to salute their hero, I sat down and scratched my head, wondering why "Pup" hadn't compiled a handful more runs to surpass Sir Donald Bradman's record score for an Australian captain of 334 runs.
He could have done it, but chose not to. Why?
Am I the only one who thought Clarke should have eked out the few precious runs to finally better the mark set way back in 1930 against England by the person most view as the greatest cricketer of all-time?
Clearly "The Don" is held in such high regard across the Tasman that to better his record is almost an act of treason.
But seriously, it's just cricket. Records are set and surpassed all the time in the game where statistics are to cricketers like what cat nip is to cats.
Would a New Zealand batsman poised on 298 declare in deference to Martin Crowe's record against Sri Lanka in 1991? No bloody way they would.
And so they shouldn't.
Where else in the world of sport would the decision to not break a record be lauded as it was at the SCG?
But it was. The Sydney Morning Herald fawned over their hero Clarke, saying: "He did what lot a of captains trying to win cricket matches would have done. He put the perspective of the game and interests of his team before personal landmarks. And he put a tired team, both physically and mentally, into bat."
Bull dust! A few more overs, a few more runs and Pup would have been able to call himself top dog. And with it the Aussie idolisation of the "untouchable" Bradman would have been a little more measured, a little more realistic. After all, you can bet your boots The Don would have eclipsed any previous Aussie batting mark without a second thought. That, in part, is why he is held in such high esteem.
And stone the crows, it's happened before.
Mark Taylor's declaration overnight while not out in the second test against Pakistan in Peshawar in 1998 saw him equal Bradman's record for a captain of 334.
At the time he was urged to carry on but the team goal was seen as more important than his own personal ones. A noble gesture and perhaps if he had walked out the next day with his bat and pads on selflessness may have been quickly construed into selfishness.
So the legend of The Don remains intact. So much for the notion we hear so much of on this side of the Tasman that the Aussies are more ruthless on the sporting field than us soft-bellied Kiwis. They usually are. But when it comes to knocking over a legend, they don't have the stomach for it.
- Todd Murray is Fairfax Sundays sports editor