Stuart Clark steps back from playing
Stuart Clark never retired from Australian duty, and he has not retired from first-class cricket either. Instead he is prioritising a new administrative job at the head of the Sydney Sixers Twenty20 team, only to be called on by New South Wales in times of crisis.
The decision to step back from the Blues arrived exactly a week after Clark had been appointed general manager of the Sixers, the sort of role he had envisaged for himself in the future, but not as soon as now. Having weighed up the various scenarios, Clark chose to help establish one of the eight new Big Bash franchises, while keeping his sharp eye on the progress of the Australian game.
He will be observed from above as a prospective addition to Cricket Australia's board or management, having occupied a position on the executive of the Australian Cricketers Association.
Before the home summer, Clark is available to take part in the Blues' last T20 Champions League campaign, at least partly because Brett Lee and Doug Bollinger may yet be tied to their Indian Premier League teams at the tournament. Club cricket will also remain part of Clark's life, as he seeks to maintain a traditionally tough school against the notion that grass-roots standards have slackened off in recent years.
"I couldn't keep playing cricket fulltime and doing the job, it would just not be fair to the job or to the cricket," Clark told ESPNcricinfo. "I thought I'd always have an involvement in the game. Obviously I'd done quite a bit of study and all the rest of it, which has given me an idea about doing something in sport.
"I never thought I'd end up doing it straight away I thought I'd probably get out of cricket, but this is just such a good opportunity that I thought I'd be silly not to take it. I'm really focused on this one and trying to get as much out of this job and seeing where it takes me. I'm not quite sure whether it (the future) is in cricket or out of cricket, wherever it may be I don't know."
Clark's career for NSW was speckled with tight spells and trophies, with his rich four years in the Australian team hanging neatly as the centrepiece of a career that had looked decidedly nondescript until his 30th year. Chosen for his first Test in South Africa in 2006, Clark took nine wickets and the match award on debut. In all he played 24 Tests and took his 94 wickets at the parsimonious average of 23.86, but after the 2009 Ashes the selectors decided to go with a younger batch of bowlers. He has claimed 393 first-class victims at 27.52, and captained New South Wales for much of last summer in the absence of Simon Katich.
"At the age of 29 or 30 I thought I'd never play for Australia," said Clark. "I had four years of playing cricket for Australia, I played Test cricket and achieved prettymuch everything I could. So I've got no grudges against anyone."
Clark's firm relationships with many in Australian cricket has afforded him a handy start to the task of recruiting players for the Sixers. Less familiar are the commercial concerns of a team that may yet be 49 per cent the property of a private investor, opening up plenty of posers for team management.
"It's really demanding, I was in Melbourne yesterday with CA, I've got plenty of stuff to organise," said Clark. "The easier stuff to organise at the moment is the playing stuff because I know the guys, I can speak to the guys, I know their managers. It's the commercial part of it that's taking a lot of time because from my understanding this is going to be a big event that takes a lot of planning."
As for the lack of melodramatic farewells, Clark assumed the posture of a dedicated numbers man.
"It's just not me mate, to be fair, I'm just not that sort of person," he said. "I don't want the big speech with the big farewell or anything like that. It's not my style, not what my personality is. Cricket's been good to me and I don't need to do one of those speeches."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo