Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Clarke Says England Lions Experience Has Made Him A Better Player

Clarke Says England Lions Experience Has Made Him A Better Player

Joe Clarke feels he is "a far better player" heading into the 2016 campaign after his winter experiences with England Lions.

The Worcestershire batsman believes the training camp, T20 and 50 over series against Pakistan 'A' in Dubai was a massive learning curve.

Clarke says working with top quality coaches such as Andy Flower, Graham Thorpe and Gary Kirsten plus training and playing with the cream of the country's young talent was a great experience.

The 19-year-old was ruled out of the last four matches of the T20 series in December – after playing in the opener – with a thigh injury.

But he was then selected for the quintet of 50 over games in January and played in the first four before he and County colleague Ross Whiteley were not selected for the finale of the series.

Now he has his sights on more Lions action this summer if he can demonstrate a repeat of the impressive form of last summer at New Road.

Clarke said: "It (the Lions call-up) has almost been something I didn't expect if you had been chatting to me this time last year about what my winter ambitions were.

"It's all gone real quick to be fair. At the start of the winter, it was almost a challenge and something I was really looking forward to, spending the winter with The Lions.

"There are some really good things and some bad things about it personally.

"What were the good things I learnt? It was just getting to train and playing with some of the lads who are now in the ICC World T20.

"There were some really good and experienced coaches such as Graham Thorpe and Andy Flower and Gary Kirsten which was something that was a great experience.

"I know I have come back from the winter a far better player, 100 per cent a far better player and hopefully that shows this summer.

"Do I mean in terms of technique or the mental approach? More mentally really. I think as you go up, it is more of a mental aspect. Obviously there is technical stuff you have to work on and that has been sorted now with myself.

"The more balls you hit, the better you become. The higher standards you play, you learn quicker.

"You learn against lads playing in that Pakistan A side that are now playing for Pakistan and it all holds you in good stead for when you come back to county cricket.

"It is a massive learning curve. I know I have come back a far better player than I was before I went out there."

Clarke added: "What were the bad things? Obviously on the first part of the winter I got injured which was not nice.

"I was probably going to feature in all five of the T20s after having a really good training camp for three weeks and impressing them on that.

"The injury didn't do me much good. I'd have really enjoyed being part of the other four T20s. But obviously it was a great experience, being part of the training camp and winning the series.

"The series after Christmas was a mixed bag. I got myself in the side, almost found myself a role in the team, and just didn't really fulfill it. Didn't really get a score that I'd have liked to.

"But at the end of the day, I've learnt a hell of a lot from it and like I said, have come back a better player which was the main aim for me."

Clarke found himself batting much of the time in the number six role compared to going in last season for Worcestershire at number four.

He said: "That is something myself and Bumpy (Director Of Cricket Steve Rhodes) spoke about over there.

"I could have done a job up the order but that is the way it is when you get up to that sort of level.

"You can't always bat where you want to bat. Look at Moeen now. You'd have never thought he would be a number eight batsman.

"But it's something that you've got to buy into and do the best you can.

"That number six role wasn't really something I'd done before but you've got to learn the role."

As for not being selected along with Whiteley for the series finale, Clarke said: "It was a bit disappointing for both of us really. We both found ourselves struggling to get that big knock which would have cemented ourselves in the team for the whole series.

"But I think we both showed what we could potentially do and hopefully we will have good seasons.

"There are some Lions games this summer so hopefully it will be a case of good starts to the season and hopefully it is not the last sort of chance for both of us."

Clarke is excited about the budding young talent in the Lions squad.

He said: "I was the youngest player there. The second youngest was Tom Curran. He is a year above me.

"There is a lot of great young talent in the squad. It is really exciting. It is quite scary.

"Only when you get into a position like that do you realise how close you are to actually playing for England.

"If you look at Liam Dawson, he wasn't originally picked in the Lions programme. You've just got to look at him to realise if you get your name in the hat, get yourself in there and get the right people looking at you, it (England) is not as far away as you think."