Sydney, Sept.8 : The decision to remove all-rounder Andrew Symonds from the Australian squad during the recent one-day series against Bangladesh, was not one taken by vice-captain Michael Clarke alone, said a Cricket Australia official today.
Rebutting allegations in the media that 27-year-old Clarke is a ruthlessly ambitious leader-in-the-wings, Cricket Australia's general manager for operations, Michael Brown, said it was wrong to blame Clarke squarely for the Symonds episode.
Brown said Clarke was one of four men who decided Symonds's fate, the other three being captain Ricky Ponting, coach Tim Nielsen and team manager Steve Bernard.
Replying to a question on whether Clarke is seeking to stamp his authority on the side in the absence of Ponting, Brown was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald as saying: "That's not true, this was a decision made by four people and the first thing Michael did was to seek the advice of Ricky."
Team insiders believe Clarke has the hallmarks of a great leader.
Michael Hussey, vice-captain in Darwin and the man overlooked for skipper duties for the younger Clarke, praised him for making the big call at the risk of sacrificing his friendship with Symonds, which remains uncertain.
"It was very hard for him, he and Andrew are very good friends. But he seems to have handled it very well; he is the same person and hasn't got himself down about it. In a leadership position you will be required to make those tough calls, and he has done so," Hussey said.
It's hard to imagine Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh or Ponting having divided the public so early in their tenures, yet the differences between Clarke and any previous captain are so pronounced.
The ear-bling, tattoos, cheeky on-field banter, right-handed batting and left-handed bowling, famous model for a fiancee and multimillion-dollar endorsements make him an ideal candidate for jealousy and criticism, says the paper.
The other side of his character is that he is known for delivering verbal barbs at teammates and would expect nothing less in return. Behind the glitz lies the gladiator.
He is very strong in his beliefs, he is not scared to tell someone exactly how he thinks. He has very strong ideas and is sure of himself. He has the makings to be a very strong leader. He has very good attributes, and he knows the game very well so, tactically, he is very sound," said Hussey.
Fast bowler Nathan Bracken said that Clarke even gave advice to the team's pacers, despite his lack of practical expertise in that department.
"Even before he was captain he would always come up to the bowling group and speak to us and share his ideas. He is somebody that has always been involved. Obviously it's new that he's got the 'c' next to his name, but the aspect of him being involved hasn't changed," Bracken said.
The initial leadership mission has been accomplished, but a sticky issue remains - how will Symonds take to Clarke upon his return to the team?
Brown suggested Symonds should see it this way: "[The leadership group] should be commended for their decision. They have shown that they value the individual more than the team. Andrew Symonds is a terrific player who adds so much value to the team, yet they chose to act in his best interests rather than looking at how it might affect their next game."