Former Australia captain Michael Clarke signs for Kowloon Cantons in DTC Mobile Hong Kong T20 Blitz
The World Cup-winning skipper is using the local event as a means to return to the global Twenty20 circuit after retiring from tests and ODIs
The DTC Mobile Hong Kong T20 has surpassed expectations after former Australia captain Michael Clarke signed on to play in the tournament at Mission Road.
The 35-year-old, who quit test and one-day cricket partly because of chronic back problems, will play for the Kowloon Cantons franchise as one of their two overseas players, joining 16-year-old Nepalese spinner Sandeep Lamichhane.
“I am really excited to be playing with the Kowloon Cantons in the upcoming T20 tournament,” said Clarke, who is using the Hong Kong Blitz as a stepping stone for a return to the global T20 circuit.
“While I have never been to Hong Kong before, I have heard so much about what a great place it is for sport, culture and food.
“I can’t wait to meet my teammates and experience the city, while also hopefully contributing to the game of cricket in Hong Kong, which I know has been coming on in leaps and bounds in recent years.”
Clarke played 115 tests for Australia and had an average of 49.10 with 28 centuries. His highest score was 329 not out against India in Adelaide in 2012. He played 245 one-day internationals for his country, averaging 44.58 with eight centuries, including a top score of 130.
In Twenty20, he played 35 games, his highest score being 67.
Also taking part in the May 27-29 tournament are Hung Hom JD Jaguars, Rude Bar Island Warriors and Lantau GII Galaxy Riders – teams who are also working hard to sign overseas players.
The Cantons will be among the favourites for the title given that they also boast big-hitting Hong Kong star Babar Hayat and former Australian international Ryan Campbell as player-coach.
In a further boost of credibility to Hong Kong’s first franchise-based T20 event, it was revealed that Clarke had approached the organisers about playing after the Hong Kong Cricket Association announced the tournament in April.
Clarke, who captained Australia to the 50-over World Cup title last year, can command hundreds of thousands of dollars in signing-on fees at his peak. However, with the Blitz enabling his path to a full-time T20 return, he is likely to have agreed to a more affordable contract.
“It really is exceeding our expectations,” said HKCA chief executive Tim Cutler. “In a way, I’m not surprised after seeing all the good work from everyone involved, and how the conversation everyone is having in world cricket is about Hong Kong.
“To be approached by someone of Michael Clarke’s calibre is something that cannot be understated. He is looking for quality cricket to come back to T20. It shows that Hong Kong is a genuine cricketing nation that even the best players in the world can come here to improve or at least fine-tune their game.”
Cutler said that the tournament has also received the go-ahead from the International Cricket Council, which means it is sanctioned as a viable arena for players from around the world to compete.
Cantons owners said they were thrilled to have Clarke on board.
Watch highlights of Michael Clarke’s final ODI innings, in the 2015 World Cup final
“We are excited that Michael Clarke will play for us,” Cantons said in a statement. “He is an inspiration for the young players in our team and his experience is unmatched.”
In addition to playing in the Blitz, Clarke has offered to help in the development of leadership in the Hong Kong men’s and women’s squads.
“A key area for our national squads is to grow strong leadership and to have someone such as Michael Clarke to spend some time mentoring and provide input in this key area is very exciting,” said HKCA director of cricket Charlie Burke.
“It’s not every day you get to pick the brains of a former test and World Cup-winning captain that has had a very successful time at the helm.
“It says a lot about Michael that he wants to help cricket grow in an emerging region and we thank him for reaching out to us.”