Aussie great spills on Clarke dressing room
One of the great cricket feuds sparked this week when veteran sports commentator Gerard Whateley accused Michael Clarke of infecting the Australian dressing room with a toxic culture.
Whateley, a regular host on sports radio station SEN, claimed Clarke's "win at all costs" attitude was responsible for the damning ball tampering incident in South Africa this year, almost three years after the former skipper's retirement.
The attack on Clarke's character was, understandably, met with a furious response from the 115-Test star, who posted a livid rebuttal to Mr "Wheatley" on Twitter.
Clarke doubled down on his criticism of Whateley on Thursday, saying he wants his daughter to remember him as somebody who abhors unfounded attacks on character and warned Whateley he "looked forward to saying it to his face".
The bitter back and forth reopened the can of worms that is Australia's damaged cricket culture. Was Clarke's captaincy really the fall in Australia's demise?
According to former fast bowler Ryan Harris, the criticism of his former skipper doesn't make a lick of sense.
Harris, who played 27 Tests as Clarke's go-to seamer, said if you were to side with Whateley's hot take, each player from the Clarke era should take responsibility as well.
"In my mind Michael was a very good captain," Harris said on Macquarie Sports Radio Friday morning. "For someone to insinuate that he's the reason behind that, well if that's the case, then I'll take responsibility as well because in a team, yes he (Clarke) leads but his players are in control of their own actions.
"So I disagree with that. Michael, he's got great integrity. He loved the job that he did and did it very, very well."
Australia's mantra of playing "hard cricket" went under the microscope as critics outside the game went to town on how to fix the baggy green's international reputation.
Some, including Whateley, viewed Australia's attitude toward the opposition as too harsh in the years leading up to the ball tampering fiasco. But Harris said Clarke always drew a line in the sand for players regarding personal attacks.
"We played hard. He'd always say go out there and do what you've got to do to get into the contest but if you go personal - we wouldn't even think of using sandpaper - that's too far.
"He'd always say that. You don't go personal, you don't insult someone but you do what you have to do to get in the contest with the batsman of the bowler.
"The funny thing is we were winning Test matches so no one was really talking about it. As soon as you start losing people start trying to find the reasons why."
Harris said the Newlands incident where Cameron Bancroft hid sandpaper to rough up the ball on David Warner's instruction was simply a "bad decision from a few players" and not reflective of the entire team.
WHATELEY RESPONDS TO FIRESTORM
Whateley finally responded to the media storm on Thursday morning, understanding the backlash from Clarke was "suitably severe" after his harsh criticism.
"This is all I'll add today," Whateley began. "If Australia regresses to playing cricket the way it was in recent times, using the 'fictional' line as a flimsy alibi, then the fall of the team and the organisation would have been for naught. It's a fallacy saying playing hard competitive cricket is being aggressive and abusive.
"Australia's quest is to indeed restore respect, but without being reviled, and that descent began under Clarke.
"Mitch Johnson has written about the toxic culture that developed under Clarke's leadership; the collapse in the sense of team left some of them not even wanting to play.
"The Australian cricket team belongs to the nation. Not to a captain, a coach or those passing through. It's a special distinction that comes with an expectation they will represent us."
Whateley bit back at Clarke's jab, claiming he didn't have the courage to play professional cricket.
"As for the courage to play ... it was a complete lack of ability but let's call it courage. I know what I'd get from Michael Clarke," he said.
The sports presenter then played the famous clip of Clarke telling James Anderson to "get ready for a broken f***ing arm."