The Ashes 2009 March 18, 2009

Clark row is 'jingoism' - Davidson


Stuart Clark: in the eye of an Ashes storm © Getty Images

Leicestershire's chairman, Neil Davidson, has accused the ECB of adopting a "jingoistic" attitude to the forthcoming Ashes series, and believes that the current row surrounding Stuart Clark's impending move to Kent is taking attention away from the real issue in English cricket, the failings within England's own management structure.

Senior England officials have strongly criticised counties who have signed Australian national players on short-term contracts ahead of this summer's Ashes, with Geoff Miller, the chairman of selectors, and Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, accusing Kent of self-interest in its pursuit of Clark, the Australian fast bowler who will join Phillip Hughes (Middlesex) in the county ranks this summer.

However Davidson, an outspoken critic of the ECB, suggested to Cricinfo that the complaints about Clark were a smokescreen for wider failings. "Counties are entitled to employ overseas players, so I think it's a bit jingoistic to suggest they shouldn't be playing," he said.

"I think the current row might be as a result of the management chaos in the England team. We don't have a permanent coach, and the team has performed badly ever since the Moores-Pietersen row. I think those are the issues the ECB should be concentrating on, rather than criticising counties who happen to employ Australians as overseas players."

Clark is understood to have reached a verbal agreement with Kent regarding a playing stint, however a contract has yet to be signed. The Australian fast bowler, 33, is returning from an elbow injury that sidelined him from the home-and-away Test series against South Africa, and is aiming to reclaim his place in the national side for the first Test in Cardiff. An extended hit-out with Kent would undoubtedly assist him in achieving that goal and, accordingly, has prompted howls of indignation from the ECB.

Giles Clarke, the chairman of the ECB, will reportedly contact Kent this week to express his displeasure, while Morris claimed the courting of Clark, revealed by Cricinfo last month, had prompted "dismay" within English cricket.

"The decision of Kent to sign Stuart Clark so that he can continue his rehabilitation after injury to enable him to be fit for the Ashes series has been met with dismay throughout the game," Morris told The Guardian. "Of course it is up to Kent which players they sign but it is an incredibly busy and important year for cricket in England and we wish to give the team every chance of regaining the Ashes. We all saw the impetus gained from the 2005 success, which led to greater financial rewards to the counties and increased participation generally. I would have hoped that all counties shared our goal of repeating the 2005 success this season and would allow us every opportunity to succeed."

Miller was equally critical of Kent's recruitment strategies. "It's disappointing," Miller told the Times. "My role is not to tell the counties how to run their businesses, but, from an England point of view, it does not help our Ashes situation. We are giving two players the opportunity to use our conditions for the first time in one case and to re-use them and get match practice after injury in the other.

"I cannot imagine Australia would do something reciprocal before we go over there next time or any time. I want England and the counties to work as closely as possible and this does not make the relationship closer. I understand why the counties concerned have done this, but it is disappointing."

Vinny Codrington, Middlesex's chief executive, said that he was aware Clarke had been in contact regarding Hughes. "Taking [Hughes] on is not ideal, but then neither is losing Owais Shah to the IPL," he told the paper. "Perhaps there should be a moratorium on both."

Last week Angus Fraser, Middlesex's director of cricket, told Cricinfo that those who criticised him for signing Hughes should "grow up". He continued: "What should the ECB do next summer? Abolish all comforts for the Australians ahead of the Ashes? Put them in dirty hotels and make them travel on a rickety, old school bus with springs coming out of the seats?

"No, you want a situation like in 2005, where you had two teams at the top of their games battling each other, and hopefully England coming out on top. Surely you want the best playing the best, and I see no problem with England taking on a well-prepared Australian side."

However, some county officials agree with Miller and Clarke, including David Smith, Davidson's colleague and chief executive at Leicestershire. "I wouldn't sign an Australian before an Ashes series," he told Cricinfo. "It's certainly not something that would be reciprocated. We had a chance to sign an Australian allrounder but we chose not to do so. We have an obligation to English cricket."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Leanne on March 20, 2009, 10:35 GMT

    "They've had their problems actually winning, but running up regular scores of 500+ is hardly bad."

    Yes Doctor394. England are running up scores of 500+ ... and still can't win! THAT is the problem, especially against opposition ranked second bottom in the world.

  • JOJO on March 20, 2009, 3:40 GMT

    From a top ranking official this not a well thought out statement at all. I guess that they (ECB) would start banning South African, Indian , Pakistani or any other team's player which is ranked higher than England in the ICC from their county sides(just to be fair). Since they feel that they are coming to usurp their resources/conditions. You would think that they would be glad to have them( CLarke and Hughes ) over in order to observe them playing and study how to bat or bowl to them in the Ashes. If I wanted to be a faster runner I would want to train with someone like Usain Bolt or Asafa Powell, someone better than me not with similar skills or worse off.

    SInce England wants to continue on this rich vein of form. . .so be it. I do enjoy watching the West Indies win matches.

  • Majid on March 20, 2009, 0:41 GMT

    Well done kent in signing staurt clark. A model professional who will help the younger team members and pass on his experience. As for the ECB, they are a disgrace. How can they complain when they were the ones who didnt give Cooley a extended contract before he signed to be come aussie bowling coach. He made hamrison what he was. Harmison cant even put a decent spell together. I've seen more accuracy in a drunk than harmison bowling spell. The ECB board should be dismantled. They are a bunch of clowns. They dont care about the well being of English cricket. Its all about money to them bottom line. Sky give them millions in Tv revenue and we have a such a bad england team its not even a laughing matter.

  • Nicholas on March 19, 2009, 21:25 GMT

    I can't believe that men who hold such senior positions in English cricket could be so ignorant and pig-headed. Surely they must know that their argument does not hold water. And how can they chirp that "it would not be reciprocated"? I'm sure that if Pietersen or Flintoff wanted to play for a State side before an Ashes tour it would be no problem at all. These are incredible statements from Geoff Miller and Giles Clark. I'm looking forward to the Ashes now and I will be behind Australia all the way, which, as a New Zealander, I can't often say.

  • Swissie on March 19, 2009, 17:00 GMT

    Just the sort of reaction one would expect from an inadequate management team. They have obviously been to the Gordon Brown school for arranging smoke screens when you have just screwed up.

  • StJohn on March 19, 2009, 15:45 GMT

    Giles Clarke, as usual, is not right. The logic of his position, and that of Miller & Morris, has more holes in it than a piece of Swiss cheese: 1.Ponting is right to raise the double standards point; 2.the logical conclusion of their position is that you would have to block every Australian playing in England in an Ashes year - in county, minor county or even club sides - just in case they got called up to the Aussie national side and their English stint gives them an unfair advantage; 3.Angus Fraser is spot on: where do you draw the line?; 4.if stopping Clark or Hughes or whoever playing in England for 6 weeks decides the Ashes, then it says more about the state of the England team than it does about giving talented Aussies some sort of unfair advantage; 5.if England players spent more time preparing ahead of Test series instead of having just a couple of slap-dash 14-a-side warm-up games against weak local teams, then maybe we would do better. There you go - chew on that logic!

  • Leanne on March 19, 2009, 14:49 GMT

    The same happened with Steve Waugh a few years ago. Still don't understand why the fuss. It's just a pre-tournament excuse for the loss that England are facing in the series. As for Fraser's comments about 2005 being two teams at the top of their game.... laughable. England may have been at their peak, but the Aussies were terrible, both in terms of their attitude and performances on the field.

  • Saptarshi on March 19, 2009, 12:20 GMT

    dyson u r rite. Its just a pathetic attempt by ECB to generate interest in an otherwise inconsequential and boring one sided series. I would rather watch NZ vs WI than these pommie faloodas. Its almost like aussie taking on Bangladesh. As far as all that history BS, well its all history anyway and as MLK said any thing should be appreciated on its contents not by reputation.

  • Keith on March 19, 2009, 9:35 GMT

    England has been performing badly since the Peterson-Moores trouble? They've had their problems actually winning, but running up regular scores of 500+ is hardly bad.

  • Josh on March 19, 2009, 8:42 GMT

    I find it amazing that the ECB would be so open about not wanting an Australian player to play in England to regain match fitness before the Ashes. Where is the value in winning if they were to actively block Clark's, or anyone's, attempts to be in peak condition for an Ashes series? Why would they not want the Australians to field the best possible team they could? Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems a bizarre position, and being so upfront about it in a public forum makes it even more bizarre. I personally think its a bad look. They need to forget about Clark and Hughes and whoever else, and starting thinking about what their own players need to do to win.

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