Australia in England 2009 March 18, 2009

Australia bemused at ECB response to Clark move

Australia's coach, Tim Nielsen, has responded with bemusement to the ECB's furious reaction over Stuart Clark's proposed move to Kent. Nielsen said his thoughts were trained squarely on the third Test in Cape Town - and the prospect of guiding his side to a 3-0 whitewash of South Africa - and hinted England may wish to employ a similar level of focus to their current one-day series against West Indies, rather than an Ashes campaign still four months away.

In addition to Clark, two other members of Australia's likely Ashes touring party have signed county deals for the start of the English summer, with Marcus North heading for Hampshire and Phillip Hughes linking with Middlesex. But whereas North and Hughes have played just four Tests between them and penned county deals prior to earning selection for Australia, Clark is a seasoned veteran seeking match practice in his comeback from elbow surgery. That, ECB chiefs insist, should deter Kent - or any other county - from signing him in an Ashes year.

Nielsen was surprised to hear of the ECB's response to Clark's plans. "We don't tell our players to go away and play county cricket," he told Cricinfo. "It's nice to hear them bleating this early, but we're still well and truly focussed on the third Test in Cape Town this week.

"England are starting a one-day series against West Indies now, and it's up to them where they choose to focus on. The Ashes is still four months away, and we have a Test match in Cape Town, a one-day series against South Africa and Pakistan and a Twenty20 World Cup to prepare for. The Ashes is obviously on our radar, but we have not yet got down to the micro-planning areas yet."

Paul Millman, the Kent chief executive, previously told Cricinfo he had no objections to signing an Australian player in an Ashes year. "I went through all that with Steve Waugh [in 2002], and I can honestly say that getting him over was one of the best things that has happened to Kent cricket," Millman said.

"He brought so much to our team, and our players learned a lot from him. I don't think that, in the grand scheme of things, having an Australian over for a month or two is going to have a huge impact on the result of the Ashes."

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo