Monday, January 23rd, 2017

Clarke Starts Countdown For Five Week Tour Of Sri Lanka With Lions

Worcestershire batsman Joe Clarke is currently preparing for the England Lions tour of Sri Lanka next month via a training camp at the National Performance Centre in Loughborough.

The 20-year-old has been a regular part of the Lions set-up for the past 15 months since breaking into the squad for last winter's tour of the UAE featuring T20 and 50 over series against Pakistan 'A'.

The former Shropshire player was chosen for the five week tour against Sri Lanka 'A' after featuring in a three ODIs versus the UAE and a four-day match against Afghanistan in December.

Here he looks back at his Lions experiences and the challenges ahead – the Lions fly out to Sri Lanka on February 6 – in a question and answer session with the Worcestershire CCC website.


Question: How did you view the games in the UAE against the host nation and Afghanistan?

Joe Clarke: "They were quite weird games (against UAE) because, apart from the third game, no-one got a score above 200. They are actually quite a useful side, they are very competitive.

"I got 40 (42) in the last game although should have been looking at the time to get a bigger score than that. But at the end of the day, I was happy to contribute in that game.

"It was quite a competitive series but the training and stuff like that was proably more important (during the three week training camp).

"We do all the training to then put it into the games but, having the practice and the training quality we had was almost more beneficial in that respect."


Question: You were well prepared before that trip to the UAE with training camps at Sandhurst and Loughborough?

Joe Clarke: "I've been to Sandhurst twice now. That is a good sort of day. A few of the lads were on tour with the Lions last year and played in the summer and there were also some new lads so it was a good chance to get to know everyone.

"That was followed by a week at Loughborough, a camp which was almost 'back to cricket' and really a chance to get to know everyone and made it easier for when we went out to Dubai.

"We have played a few games and are now all really friendly and it will makes it easier for when we go to Sri Lanka and a fully competitive series against tough opposition."


Question: What was your assessment of Sri Lanka 'A' in last summer's Tri-Series?

Joe Clarke: "I think in our conditions, we were the better side but in Sri Lankan conditions, and I assume the surfaces we will be playing on with their spinners, the skills they have, and the way their batters play spin, will be really tough for us.

"It is something all the training and the games with UAE and Afghanistan and now the training camp this month have been preparing us for.

"I'm sure we will have a few practices out there before we get going to get used to the conditions but, in that respect, we've been given the best preparation to go out there and be really competitive. The main goal is to win the series over there."


Question: Quite a few of the members of the squad have been together for a while, does it feel a stronger squad now?

Joe Clarke: "Definitely. Some lads have been part of the Lions for the last two years – including myself – and the friendships and the amount of time you spend with each other, that sort of grows.

"On the field, it makes it easier for you to know who you are batting with, and what their strengths are, who are the best fielders and where they field, and who are the best bowlers.

"It is something that you at have your counties because you are training with the county lads every day and playing together all season.

"Now we have with the Lions played so much together and trained so much together, you almost feel as if they are your county mates. It is a good group of lads.

"Obviously it is always a great pleasure and you feel great pride to wear the Worcestershire colours.

"But it is a little bit extra special when you put on an England shirt and it is the same for all the other lads as well."


Question: It must have been nice to hear Steve Rhodes say you have similar batting nous out in the middle as Joe Root? Joe Clarke:

"It is always nice to hear stuff like that and be to be linked with Rooty in any sort of way is what any young cricketer aspiring to play for England would want to hear.

"For Bumpy to say that is really good and to be linked to Rooty is something I like hearing. It's always nice to hear that sort of praise."