Clark shocked at Australia call-up
So unprepared was Stuart Clark for selection on Australia's limited overs tour of South Africa, he did not have a passport when the call came. "I've just spent the day organising another one," he said. "My original passport is still at the British consulate."
Clark had been preparing to fly to England this week for a county stint with Kent, for whom he was to debut on April 21 in a County Championship match against Northamptonshire. But those plans were scuppered with a surprise phone call from Michael Brown, Cricket Australia's operations manager, on Friday night, instructing him to pack his bags for South Africa and, afterwards, the UAE.
"I almost fell off my chair when I got the call," Clark told Cricinfo. "I hadn't planned on it happening at all. I had just assumed my one-day international career was in the past, and while I was disappointed by that, I was just concentrating on the other forms of the game. This really came out of the blue, and I'm very excited about it. It's a real chance for me to get back into the one-day team on a more regular basis."
Clark's call-up came after Brett Geeves fractured his left foot during Australia's 25-run defeat to South Africa in Cape Town on Thursday. He will arrive in South Africa on Sunday, and is likely to make his return to one-day international cricket in the fifth and final match at the Wanderers next Friday.
Clark has not represented Australia at limited-overs level since September last year, and appeared to have slipped well back in the pecking order. But injuries to key fast bowling personnel has presented him with an opportunity to add to his 36-game resume, and gain valuable exposure to international cricket in his comeback from elbow surgery.
Clark expected that comeback would be made through the county ranks; a move that prompted outrage among many within English cricket, given the likelihood of him playing a senior role in this year's Ashes series. The veteran paceman is still amenable to the idea of playing with Kent after Australia's one-day series against Pakistan in the UAE, but his original deal was due to end on May 31 so the new time frame would leave him with just a handful of matches.
"I'm not quite sure what will happen with Kent," Clark said. "I was prepared to fly there in the next week. I would still like to play there, but I have to be realistic. They might be looking for someone to play for the whole season. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it after I get back from Dubai."
Paul Millman, the Kent chief executive, admitted that the county would have to start making new plans. "We will be looking at our options over the weekend," he told Cricinfo. "Obviously we are delighted for Stuart and this is something you have to prepare for when you sign big players. We will let Stuart settle in South Africa and then be in contact."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo