After years treading water at Surrey, Rikki Clarke has left for Derbyshire. Perhaps surprisingly, he has immediately become their captain. Though only 26, he has already acquired plenty of county experience. What he has conspicuously failed to do, however, is convince that he has the desire, consistency and relish for responsibility to lead a first-class outfit.
But there is only one way to find out. Having been involved at Surrey since the age of nine, leaving could not have been easy, and he deserves credit for moving out of the comfort zone that appeared to have afflicted him there. He has moved to a much less fashionable county; their fortunes will in large part be dependant on how he performs.
Clarke’s talent is undeniable, but first-class averages of 23 and 42 (the wrong way round) constituted a dire final season at The Oval. With the bat, he has the potential to – and should – bat at four in county cricket, enabling him to build innings and not, as often the case at Surrey, find himself with the tail early on. His bowling reaches good speeds in the mid-80s but his inconsistency is such that he has never taken more than 22 first-class wickets in a season – and Surrey have often not trusted him to bowl his full quota of overs in one-day games.
This appears a good move for all three parties. Surrey have ridden themselves of a sometime bad influence in the dressing room (if thr rumours are to believed), and freed funds to be used for other players, led by star signing Mohammad Asif; Derbyshire have secured a player rich in talent who currently averages 38 with the bat in first-class cricket. Clarke has thrown himself into a situation where responsibility is unavoidable. He will hope the change of scenery will catapult him back into the England set-up in time for next winter’s overseas tours.
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