MICHAEL CLARKE is effortlessly compiling milestone upon milestone but he says he has not forgotten the not-so-distant dark days when he could barely scrape together a score in double figures, let alone double centuries.
"I remember playing England in the Australian summer two years ago and I couldn't make a run so when you're scoring runs you want to cash in, and that's what I'm trying to do," Clarke said on Thursday night.
With the Australian captain in unstoppable stride, it is difficult to even summon the image of him in battler mode as he was in the home Ashes defeat to England of 2010-11, averaging 21 with not 200 runs in nine innings. A couple of months earlier he had made even fewer on the short Test tour of India. Many called for his dumping – along with myriad others involved in the 3-1 series humiliation – and the concept of him fulfilling his perceived destiny and becoming Australia's Test captain appeared in some doubt.
So commanding is he this summer, by comparison, he does not even have an average in this series and when or if he does land one finally on Friday it will be in the vicinity of 500 and beyond.
"The downside to this great game is when you're not [in form], you find it really hard to make your next run," Clarke said. "That happens through your career and that's happened a lot for me. I got dropped [in 2005], I remember when I came back from getting dropped I said, 'I want to make the most of the good days' and that's what I feel I'm doing. I feel like when I'm getting in I'm trying to cash in because I know there'll be some tough days around the corner again."
What Clarke has also managed via his incredible batting streak, and his shrewd first 18 months of captaincy, is the respect he always craved and more. He spoke of having to earn it after taking over from Ricky Ponting last year; that task is well and truly accomplished, accompanied by ever-growing public adulation. If it was once difficult to like Clarke, it's now becoming impossible not to, so impressive is his personal crusade to lift Australia back to the Test summit.
He has been through his fair share of trials and tribulations – his father's battle with cancer, and his high-profile split from the model Lara Bingle among them – and as he grasps greatness, the 31-year-old from Sydney's west remembers well who backed him through those undulations in the road.
"It's special for everybody that has thrown their support behind me and the people that are close to you that have been there the good days and bad days, whether that's on the field with cricket or off the field with my personal life and things that have happened through my life, especially with my family," Clarke said.
"My dedication is certainly to my teammates, first and foremost, but also the people that have stood beside me through good and bad days."