MELBOURNE: Skipper Michael 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 Clarke, who played his 245th and last one-day international to lead Australia to a comprehensive seven-wicket over New Zealand in Sunday´s final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Clarke, 33, went out on a high, finishing with 74 off 72 balls — taking his career total to 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.
Clarke was stung when asked at his media conference following the 95-win semi-final victory over India if his batting style had become redundant for the modern game now stacked up against the audacious shotmakers in his side — David Warner, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell and Aaron Finch.
“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, who turns 34 next week.
While Clarke was on the sidelines, Steve 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.
Sunday´s World Cup final triumph was a career pinnacle for Clarke, who won 50 of his 74 ODIs as Australia´s skipper.
“It´s been an honour and a privilege to represent my country, the time is right for to walk away from one-day cricket,” Clarke.
But he isn´t finished.
He will continue to play Test cricket looking to add to his 108 matches so far which have yielded 8,432 runs and a highest score of an undefeated 329.