When trouble comes, victory needs an accountant

Stuart Clark, Australian pace bowler, is currently studying a Masters in Commerce degree. When he completes his career for Australia, he says he will study Law.

Look at the current Australian team. What sort of vocations do you think these guys would have if not for cricket? McGrath would be a safe cracker; Warne would be a confidence trickster, slamming his mansion door on cameras and reporters who have exposed his wrongdoings; Lee would be a surfboard wielding Wall Street stockbroker making massive gains and massive losses; Michael Clark would be an actor on Neighbours; Hayden would be an aging bodybuilder.

Stuart Clark? He would crunch numbers every morning and afternoon and get excited about new changes to income tax laws. He would think fondly of his Professional Year and would be cynical about anyone who claimed to be a CPA.

To me, the measure of a player's worth is his consistency. Don't just look at the times when a player excels - look at the times when he is working in the background.

Clark's current Ashes campaign looks brilliant - at this moment in time (after day 1 of the 4th Test) he has taken 18 wickets at 17.88, an economy rate of 2.26 runs per over and a strike rate of one wicket every 47.4 balls. However, it's his consistent performance that needs to be lauded here:


These are not the performances of a man who will single-handedly win a test. However, they are the performances of a man who assists others. He acts in the background, receiving praise from everyone who sees him play but is never on the podium receving man of the match awards.

This used to be Jason Gillespie's role - except that Gillespie never had figures like these. When Clark ambles in he does not strike fear into the hearts of opposition batsmen, and nor is he a target of crowd attention - the Barmy Army ignore him, the Aussie supporters walk away to buy a beer.

If Clark was a batsman, he would be accused of "playing for his average". At the end of each innings, you could imagine Clark looking at his figures and doing the calculations to see whether he is still averaging under 20, and how many runs have been taken off him.

For statistically-minded cricket tragics like myself, Clark is a welcome antithesis to the blond-haired anti-tank cannon that is Brett Lee. Lee is a showman - his wickets are exciting and his joy is unparalleled, coming as welcome relief from the boundaries that get hit off his overs. Clark is similarly overjoyed when he takes a wicket, but his celebrations look more like an end of financial year party attended by the boring and mundane who have had one too many glasses of shandy. Lee's wickets are a celebration of life in the midst of death; Clark's wickets are merely entries on the ledger, occasionally highlighted in yellow and admired by the green-inked scrawlings of auditors.

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