Love before cricket: star's priorities outrage Australia

Vice-captain abandons tour of New Zealand to comfort fiancée after nude photo leak

She is being called the Yoko Ono of the cricket world. Lara Bingle, a 22-year-old swimsuit model, stands accused of jeopardising the career of the Australian cricketer Michael Clarke. The vice-captain's decision to desert a one-day series in New Zealand has outraged fans and commentators, with some calling for him to be sacked.

Clarke, 28, rushed home to Sydney this week to comfort his fiancée, who has been in the spotlight since a naked photograph of her was leaked to a women's magazine. The picture, showing Bingle stepping out of a shower, was taken by Brendan Fevola, a married Australian Rules footballer with whom she had an affair four years ago.

Fevola's behaviour, which also reportedly included circulating the picture among his teammates, upset Bingle, who hired a celebrity agent and sold an interview to the same magazine, Woman's Day. She also summoned Clarke home.

Clarke, a well liked and talented cricketer, has been widely tipped to inherit the Test captaincy when Ricky Ponting retires, a job many of his compatriots regard as more important than the Prime Minister's. Now some are questioning his suitability for the post.

"Maturity is the issue," wrote Peter Roebuck, a leading cricket commentator, in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald. "From a distance, the romance has all the traits of a schoolboy crush. Clarke has scored a stack of runs for his country, has travelled to many places, has seen and done a lot ... By now gilded youth ought to have given way to adult sensibility."

Eyebrows were raised when Clarke started dating Bingle, who found fame in 2006 starring in an Australian tourism campaign. The ads, which featured a bikini-clad Bingle asking "Where the bloody hell are you?", were banned in several countries, including Britain. In 2007, topless photographs of Bingle attracted so many visitors to the GQ magazine website that it crashed.

It seems a strange match: Clarke is, by his own admission, a quiet type. He never drinks beer, preferring wine or soft drinks, and spends his leisure time watching movies or walking his dog. But Bingle became a fixture on his arm, turning up at sports award ceremonies in eye-catching dresses.

Now fans are calling on Clarke, who is Australia's Twenty20 skipper, to choose between her and his job. One wrote on a news website: "Clarke should be sacked for putting his high-maintenance fiancée above his duties to international cricket." Another fumed: "Clarke should not captain Australia if he is going to walk out every time Lara pulls a publicity stunt."

The fans might yet get their way. The couple were yesterday holed up in their $6m apartment at Bondi Beach, with a "confused and lost" Clarke reportedly considering breaking off their two-year engagement. Insiders say the nude photo scandal was the last straw for Clarke, who detests the off-field publicity triggered by, among other things, Bingle's friendships with various shady Sydney figures.

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy