Australia’s 5th World Cup title, a tribute to Phil Hughes: Clarke’s ODI swansong

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Michael Clarke hit 74 in his last one-day international to lead Australia to their fifth World Cup title with a seven-wicket win over New Zealand in a disappointing final on Sunday.A record crowd of 93,013 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground saw power-packed Australia bowl out the Black Caps for 183 and then gallop to victory in the 34th over.

Clarke, who announced his retirement from the one-day format on the eve of the final, added 112 runs for the third wicket with his likely successor Steve Smith, who returned unbeaten on 56.Clarke shrugged off fitness fears, talk of rifts with team-mates, coach and selectors to spearhead Australia to a fifth World Cup crown.

It was a fitting finale for 33-year-old Clarke, who played his 245th and scored 7,981 runs — after being largely a peripheral figure for the Australian team in the tournament scoring two half-centuries in six knocks although his leadership and on-field strategy have not been questioned.

“I think I’m doing all right. I think my record is pretty good up against anybody in the world. I think my record holds its place. I’m not concerned at all,” retorted Clarke.Yet his last ODI century came against England in Manchester in September 2013 and up to the World Cup Clarke had played in only six ODIs in the previous year.

Speculation over the state of his fitness also annoyed him after recent battles with hamstring and back problems.
“I think everybody is sick of talking about my injury, my old injury, I should say,” said Clarke.
While Clarke was on the sidelines, Smith successfully filled in as captain to lead Australia to a 2-0 Test series victory in the three remaining Tests against India and is expected to take over the ODI role full-time.

Reports at the time suggested the team had taken to Smith’s style, while speculation that Clarke wanted to have a strong say in when he was ready to return to the team from injury had caused friction with Cricket Australia.
“It seems like some people in particular are going to write what they want to write,” he scowled.

“I’m really happy and comfortable with my relationship with Cricket Australia firstly, certainly with my teammates.”It’s water off a duck’s back for me, I’ve copped it my whole career. It’s another day, another newspaper sold. I don’t really care.

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