Michael Clarke faces a race against time to be ready for the first Test against India in Brisbane on December 4 © IANS
Michael Clarke faces a race against time to be ready for the first Test against India in Brisbane on December 4 © IANS

Sydney: Nov 23, 2014

Australian captain Michael Clarke‘s bid to play in the first Test against India took a bizarre and controversial twist as his domestic club Western Suburbs’ captain Jeff Cook declared his team’s innings at 17 for no loss against Parramatta at Kings Oval. This led to claims that Cook acted outside the spirit of cricket and there was talk of an official investigation as it came to light that the Western Suburbs skipper had made the declaration in a bid to give Clarke batting time next Saturday in a bid to prove his fitness for the first Test.

Cook said that all he wanted to do was the best for Clarke and Australia, news.com.au reported. In a statement from New South Wales (NSW) Cricket, chief executive Andrew Jones said that they understand Wests might have taken this action to increase the probability of Australian captain Clarke batting in the second week of the game. Jones added that while Cricket NSW and the Sydney Cricket Association are conscious of the broader interest of Australian cricket, and appreciate the thinking behind this gesture, they are also conscious of the need to main the integrity of the Sydney Grade competition.

Consequently, Jones added, that they would investigate the full facts and evaluate Wests’ actions at the conclusion of the round. With the selectors calling on the Australian captain to prove his fitness before the opening Test against at the Gabba, starting on December 4, by batting in the current grade round, Western Suburbs tried to give him a week’s grace by bowling.

Clarke, who has been hampered by a hamstring tear sustained the summer’s opening One-Day International (ODI) against South Africa, had no chance of playing. However, he remains hopeful of taking the field against Parramatta at Old Kings this Saturday. The problem for Cook and his Western Suburbs team came when they lost the toss and Parramatta decided to send them in.

With Clarke nominated for only the second day of the match, they closed their innings after a handful of overs. That forced Parramatta to bat and potentially give Clarke the opportunity to bat in his team’s second innings and stake his claim for the Test. Then to make matters even more confusing, Parramatta decided to close their own innings at 2-140 midway through the afternoon.

Parramatta president Ron Wright said that there was never any agreement between the clubs to let Clarke bat next week and added that it wouldn’t have been within the spirit of cricket if there was. Cricket Australia insists that they would continue to follow the advice of the team’s physiotherapist Alex Kountouris, who last week stated that Clarke’s hamstring injury is not that dramatic that the skipper’s going to miss the whole summer.