Clark surprise at 'over the top' reaction to Kent move
Stuart Clark has been stunned by the irascible response to his signing with Kent, and believes the comments of several senior ECB officials have been "over the top". The veteran fast bowler faxed his Cricket Australia medical clearance to the county on Thursday - the last of the formalities in finalising a short-term contract - and plans to arrive in Canterbury in mid-April to begin his playing stint.
Kent's signing of Clark has been strongly criticised by Geoff Miller, the national selector, and Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, both of whom have accused the county of providing succour to a key member of the Australian squad in an Ashes year. Clark, though, believes too much has been made of his temporary move to Canterbury, which he hopes will assist him in his comeback from elbow surgery.
"I can't believe all this has happened, to be honest," Clark told Cricinfo. "[Miller and Morris] are obviously entitled to their opinion, but really, I'm just looking to play for Kent. Sure, it's an Ashes year, but I wouldn't be the first Australian to go over and play county cricket. The whole reaction has been surprising and, I think, over the top."
Australia's captain, Ricky Ponting, went one step further, accusing the ECB of hypocrisy in its attitude towards Australian players signing short-term county contracts. Ponting highlighted Andrew Strauss' 11-match stint with New Zealand state side Northern Districts last year as evidence of England's apparent double-standard.
"I don't know why it's all of a sudden an issue now," Ponting said. "Guys have been picked out of county teams and out of minor counties to play in Test matches while they've been in England so I don't see the big deal in it.
"Are there many tournaments or competitions in the world where things like that don't happen? I believe Strauss was playing cricket in New Zealand just before he got picked back in their Test side so what's the difference there? They want it both ways by the sounds of things."
Paul Marsh, the chief executive of the Australian Cricketers' Association, would not be drawn on the legal implications of counties implementing a wide-scale hiring freeze of Australian players in the future, as suggested by Miller.
"The question as to whether or not an Australian player could legally challenge being blocked by the ECB from playing county cricket is complex, however we'd hope it wouldn't come to this," Marsh said. "Whilst not many English players have historically played in our State competitions, we have for the last two England tours to Australia, hosted their Academy/A team allowing their reserve players to get match practice in Australian conditions against good opposition. The England team has benefited from being able to draft players from this team who are acclimatised to Australian conditions."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo