Michael Clarke, Australia, Australia ball-tampering
Michael Clarke © AFP

Retired cricket Test captain Michael Clarke on Sunday offered to play for Australia for free to help the team recover after the downfall of his successor Steven Smith over a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

Smith and vice-captain David Warner were stripped of their leadership roles and banned from the sport for one year after a plot to alter the ball’s condition during the third Test in March.

“I would do anything to help the Australian cricket team,” the 37-year-old told Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph.

“Age is age. Is 17 too young? I’ve never cared about age. Brad Hogg played at 45. I don’t think it’s about a number. I think it’s about commitment and devotion.

“It’s like getting back on a bike. I’m as fit and healthy as I’ve ever been. The time away has been great for my body.”

The former batsman, who is in India to cover the Indian T20 League and comments on the sport for Australia’s Nine Network, said he had messaged Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive James Sutherland but had not received a reply.

The ex-skipper retired in 2015 after his 115th and final Test of the Ashes series against England and said his experience could be useful for the embattled team either on or off the field.

Ball-tampering row: Michael Clarke urges furious Australian fans to forgive Steven Smith
Ball-tampering row: Michael Clarke urges furious Australian fans to forgive Steven Smith

“I’ve experienced a lot of great things in cricket but some tough times as well,” he told the newspaper.

“I’ve got the experience to help these young players and that’s where our focus should be right now until the other guys come back.”

Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft — who was banned for nine months — decided not to challenge their sanctions imposed by CA last week.

This means Smith and Warner will not be eligible to play for Australia until March next year, with wicketkeeper Tim Paine appointed captain.

Clarke said the ball-tampering affair, as Australia slips to fourth in the world Test rankings, could set the team back for years.

“I’m worried about it. I don’t want us to be like the West Indies,” he added.

“We’re not talking about the next five years. It’s the next six months and we need to fix it ow. If Cricket Australia asks me, I’d drop everything to help out.”