One of the reasons why Australia is back in contention as the best Test cricket team in the world is because of their captain, Michael Clarke, who in the match just completed achieved what no other batsmen—even the great Sir Donald Bradman—had ever done: to score four (count them: four) double centuries in one calendar year. It’s worth pausing just to think about this feat: one would consider oneself a moderately useful cricketer if one scored 50+ runs four times in a year at the highest level. To score 100+ four times in Test matches would mean that one was pretty damn good. To score 150+ would get you noticed as belonging in the highest echelons of the contemporary game. To score 200+ four times is, well, unprecedented. And to do it while carrying the burden of captaincy makes it even more special.
But Clarke is a man apart. Unlike English captain Alastair Cook, who looks permanently disappointed in himself (even though he’s no reason to be), and Indian captain M. S. Dhoni, who never cracks a smile (in recent years, he’s had every reason to be annoyed with his players), Clarke—still boyish and enthusiastic at the age of nearly 32 (thus the nickname “pup”)—actively seems to enjoy the game. He’s always smiling and laughing, which is not just rare in a cricketer, but very rare in an Australian one, and especially Australian captains, who over the years have appeared to pride themselves on their grizzled-featured, gimlet-eyed, and no-prisoners ability to psych out their opposing number.
Of course, when a beaming Clarke is dancing down the pitch to hammer you all over the field, joie de vivre may be even more soul-destroying than grim-faced determination. Here’s Clarke taking the Indians for 329 not out, earlier this year.