Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Clarke Hopes He Can Emulate Success Of Moeen Ali As He Prepares For Lions Bow

Clarke Hopes He Can Emulate Success Of Moeen Ali As He Prepares For Lions Bow

Joe Clarke says he is "excited about what the winter holds" with England Lions and hopes himelf and Ross Whiteley can eventually achieve similar success to Moeen Ali who is now a regular member of the senior side.

Worcestershire wicket-keeper batsman Clarke admits it has been a rapid rise after starting the 2015 campaign playing for Shropshire and by his own admission struggling for runs at second team level at New Road.

His ambitions at the start of the season were "to play a few first team games" but Clarke has not looked back since scoring a double hundred for the Seconds against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham College in late June on his 19th birthday.

That led to his elevation into the first team and a series of impressive performances in LV = County Championship and white ball cricket have culminated in his Lions call-up along with New Road team-mate Whiteley.

Clarke said: "It has all happened all real quickly. I'm pretty excited about what the winter holds for me. I didn't really expect it to happen at the start of the season but a lot of hard work. It's pretty exciting.

"Did I have any idea that I might get called up? I think after my one-day 100 against Gloucestershire, Bumpy (Steve Rhodes) just mentioned some of the guys involved with the Lions stuff had seen me play and liked what I saw and, if I had a decent end to the season, that I would put my name in the frame.

"I had a few more scores after that in the Championship and white ball cricket and maybe the 100 against Sussex might have tipped it.

"I think James Whittaker (National Selector) was here. That always helps when you perform in front of people like that so maybe that might have been what tipped it in the end."

Clarke admitted: "My ambitions at the start of the season was to play a few first team games. I saw myself as one of the batters in the second eleven that could push to pay first team if people had dips in form.

"I didn't even start that well for the second eleven early season. I was even playing Minor Counties cricket for Shropshire at the start of the season.

"Then I had a 50 not out against Northants in the Seconds and then the double hundred sort of sent me on my way.

"It's been a big jump but I feel as if I've acquitted to it really and I'll be alright with it I'm sure. Overall, since when I first signed my contract here, it has all gone ever so quickly really."

Clarke made his Championship debut against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl and has looked at home at that level since scoring a half century in the next match against Warwickshire at New Road.

He said: "Has first team cricket taken much getting used to? The first game, I was more nervous than anything.

"You almost doubt yourself as to whether you are good enough to play at that sort of standard.

"But then second game I got 50 at home against Warwickshire and that was a massive confidence booster for myself and made me realise I'll be alright if I work hard during the week and in training and put my mind to it, I should be alright talent-wise.

"It has gone alright since then."

Clarke and Whiteley are the first Worcestershire players to get a Lions call-up since Moeen Ali two years ago ahead of his senior breakthrough against the West Indies in the Caribbean.

Clarke said: "I think it was Mo who was the last from Worcester to play for the Lions and now there is two of us in me and Ross.

"If you look at the success Moeen has had after going through the way myself and Ross have, hopefully there are similar things for myself and Ross to achieve.

"It is the next step towards playing for England. As a county cricketer you want to go through the steps and to do it so quickly is a bit scary but I think at least you are out there and people know you can play.

"It is easy at Worcester in the sense there are a lot of opportunities and the support staff are great. It is quite exciting now."

Clarke is delighted that Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes has been appointed part of the Lions coaching staff for the winter.

He said: "It is truly deserved. He puts in a lot of hours for all of us here.

"Whatever you want, days off or whenever, if you are not quite happy with your game, he is here from half seven in the morning.

"He would be here from half seven to nine o'clock if he had to. It is truly well deserved and I think he will benefit a lot from doing some international stuff.

"He will get some ideas from other coaches that he will bring into here at Worcester which will be massive for us as well."