Clarke set for IPL gig in lead-up to Ashes

CHRIS BARRETT
Last updated 05:00 27/01/2013
Michael Clarke
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RUN RAGGED: If Clarke takes up an IPL deal he will have almost no time off before the Ashes series.

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Michael Clarke is poised to accept a lucrative pay day in this year's Indian Premier League only weeks before Australia's Ashes campaign begins in England.

The test and one-day captain is set to feature in the seven-week tournament in April and May after being listed in the IPL's February 3 auction to be held in Chennai.

His manager James Erskine said the likelihood was that Clarke would turn out for a second time in the world's richest Twenty20 competition.

''It's a possibility, it's not 100 per cent yet, but it's a possibility,'' Erskine said. ''I think that's what he's thinking.''

The sixth instalment of the IPL is a potential spanner in the works for the Australian team hierarchy busy planning their assault on India and then England. It begins, on April 3, only a week after the fourth test against India winds up in Delhi, and the IPL final on May 26 falls 13 days before Australia kick off their pre-Ashes campaign in England at the ICC Champions Trophy.

The first test, at Trent Bridge, then starts on July 10 following warm-up tour games.

Clarke, the world's most prolific batsman, is paramount to Australia's prospects in the winter but while the runs have continued to flow from his bat at record-breaking levels this summer his fitness, as a result, has been a concern.

The 31-year-old's extensive time in the middle left him battling continued hamstring soreness, before he withdrew from Wednesday's fifth one-day international against Sri Lanka with a twisted ankle.

If the captain does not use the IPL window to rest he stands to have almost no time off between now and the conclusion of the Ashes - the first leg of back-to-back series against England this year - at the end of August.

Clarke made his IPL debut last year on a one-year contract with Pune Warriors.

Cricket Australia is unable to prevent players appearing in the IPL as it falls during an official ''leave'' period and other Ashes candidates with existing deals and likely to play include Shane Watson, Matthew Wade, Ben Hilfenhaus, James Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson.

CA will be delighted, however, that fast bowler Mitchell Starc has turned down offers of up to $1 million in an effort to be fresh for the five-test tour of England. The player of the tournament with the title-winning Sydney Sixers at the T20 Champions League in South Africa last October, Starc is considered hot property by IPL franchises and his sparkling form with the bat - he scored 74 unbeaten runs in Australia's one-day matches in Brisbane and Sydney - has only increased his appeal.

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It is believed the 22-year-old stood to earn between $750,000 and $1million if he had entered the IPL auction, with two franchises in particular understood to have been willing to pay a sum in that category for the left-armer from Sydney's west.

There has been continued interest in the lead-up to the auction but he has knocked the offers back because of the cluttered schedule, planning to instead join the star-studded T20 competition next year.

''Obviously after the Champions League that they won, Mitch became hot property,'' said Starc's manager, Andrew Fraser. ''We sat down and spoke about it and agreed that in the long-term interests of his career it was best not to play.

''His body needs a rest, and if he takes that four to six weeks off and has a rest, then it's going to make him really fresh for that [England] tour. If he doesn't take a rest he's pretty well not going to have had a break for two years. It wasn't a hard decision.''

Amid concern over injuries and CA's handling of players, Starc has been the high-performance team's best example of success. He has performed well in all formats for his country since his test debut against New Zealand in December 2011, and impressed in county cricket and, until the onset of ankle bone spurs last month, had been injury-free.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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