Dougie Brown has warmly welcomed Rikki Clarke’s decision to commit his long-term future to Warwickshire.
The Bears’ player-of-the-season last year, Clarke has become an integral member of the team in all formats since arriving at Edgbaston late in the 2007 season.
He arrived after a brief and ill-fated spell as Derbyshire captain, a difficult time which continued the wobble which his career had entered at Surrey after beginning in spectacular fashion.
Clarke introduced himself to senior cricket as an abundantly-talented 20-year-old when he scored a century on his first-class debut at Cambridge UCCE at Fenners.
The all-rounder quickly rose to prominence as a batsman of fine technique and, at times, withering power and a bowler able to hurry the best batsmen when his rhythm was right.
He was in the Surrey team which lifted the inaugural T20 Cup by thrashing Warwickshire at Trent Bridge in 2003 and, in October that year, made his Test debut. Clarke played two Tests for England in Bangladesh, deputising for the injured Andrew Flintoff, and far from disgraced himelf with a half-century among his three innings and four wickets at 15 apiece.
But as Surrey suffered relegation in the championship, Clarke, though still often one of their better performers, drifted out of England contention.
His move to Derbyshire failed to galvanise his career but then Warwickshire director of cricket Ashley Giles saw the raw talent that was in the player. He brought him to Warwickshire and, along with bowling coach Graeme Welch set about extracting the most out it.
They succeeded to a degree which has pushed Clarke back into the senior England set-up. And Giles’ successor, Dougie Brown, is delighted that the all-ruunder will now be around until at least 2007, effectively for the rest of his playing career.
“Rikki was instrumental in last year’s championship success by scoring more than 800 runs and taking 26 wickets,” Brown said. “He is arguably playing the best cricket of his career and it’s no wonder that he’s now firmly back in the minds of the England selectors.
“Having a player in your side that consistently scores big runs at number seven and bowls in excess of 85 miles per hour is a massive asset.
“All the players and staff at Edgbaston are delighted that Rikki has committed his long-term future to Warwickshire.”
Clarke himself added: “I’m thrilled that I have been able to secure a new deal.
“We have a great set-up and coaching team here and many members of the squad have signed long-term contracts so I expect us to be able to challenge for more trophies in the future.
“I have talked quite a bit about how much I love playing for Warwickshire and how Jim Troughton, Graeme Welch, Dougie Brown, and previously Ashley Giles, have made a massive impact on my career.
“But I wanted to take my time over signing this extension to my contract as it has come at a very important time in my career and I needed to ensure that it’s right for my family.”
The 31-year-old has become a firm favourite among the supporters at Edgbaston where, tweaked hamstring permitting, he will be in action during the next two weeks with important home games against Middlesex and Yorkshire.
And at those games, following a very welcome move by Warwickshire, those supporters will, at times, be able to enjoy a new – or rather, restored – dimension to the Edgbaston experience. They will be able to stroll around the field during the lunch and tea.
Bears supporters of certain generations have fond memories of venturing on to the field during intervals but the invitation to do so was withdrawn by Steve Rouse during his long tenure as groundsman.
But Rouse’s successor at Edgbaston Gary Barwell has revoked the silly ban. Spectators were allowed on to the field during intervals of the match against Durham two weeks ago and the same will apply at other times from now on.
“This is an initiative that the club hasn’t done for many years,” said chief executive Colin Povey. But Gary wants to make it a regular occurrence at as many fixtures as possible.”
* Varun Chopra, Chris Woakes and Chris Wright will all miss the Bears’ County Cahmpionship game at home to Middlesex next week after their selection in the England Lions team to face the touring New Zealand side at Leicestershire’s Grace Road.