Clarke signs up for Hong Kong's domestic T20 league
Former Australia captain Michael Clarke has signed with Kowloon Cantons for the inaugural edition of Hong Kong's domestic Twenty20 league, the Hong Kong T20 Blitz
A marriage of convenience will see Michael Clarke try to kickstart his Twenty20 career via the fledgling Hong Kong Blitz later this month. Clarke, who retired from international cricket in August 2015, then announced his return to grade cricket too late to be considered for the IPL auction and has not yet stirred much interest from clubs ahead of next season's Big Bash League. T20 was not his strong suit as a cricketer - he played his last recognised T20 game in 2012 - and the decision to offer his services to Hong Kong around two weeks ago suggests he knows he has to start somewhere.
Equally the organisers of the new competition, set to be played from May 27 to 29, are delighted to have secured a cricketing name of Clarke's stature. Ashes and World Cup victories make him an instantly recognisable figure to help promote a tournament designed to build interest in T20 in the region.
"To summarise Michael's credentials is impossible, he is simply one of the best cricketers of this generation, if not ever," Hong Kong Cricket Association (HKCA) chief executive Tim Cutler said. "Hong Kong cricket has delivered many firsts recently, however to have a recent Test captain who oversaw a famous Ashes whitewash, the 2015 World Cup victory and whom sat atop the world batting rankings a number of times is just incredible.
"Not only does this vindicate the effort in putting the tournament together, it also shows the growth of cricket in East Asia. With over 80,000 participants in China there is immense potential in East Asia. With rugby and soccer both making strategic plays into the nascent Chinese sporting market, we look forward to working with the ICC and Asian Cricket Council in growing cricket throughout the region."
Clarke's contract with the tournament also includes a mentoring component, and he has committed to a pair of two-hour sessions discussing cricket and leadership with the developing men's and women's squads. The men's team appeared at the World T20 tournament in India earlier this year.
"A key area for our national squads, both men and women, is to grow strong leadership, and to have someone such as Michael Clarke to spend some time mentoring and providing input in this key area is very exciting," the HKCA director of cricket Charlie Burke said. "It's not every day you get to pick the brains of a former Test and World Cup winning captain that has had a very successful time at the helm.
"It says a lot about Michael that he wants to help cricket grow in an emerging region, and we thank him for reaching out to us."
Hong Kong Cricket has ambitions to build on the initial Blitz, perhaps by attracting BBL fixtures to the city in the future whenever Cricket Australia decides to expand the number of matches and/or teams.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig